French Wildfires Force 12,000 People To Flee Coastal Resort Areas

Jul 26, 2017
Originally published on July 27, 2017 12:39 am

France is asking European neighbors to help it fight fast-growing wildfires that have consumed thousands of acres of forest near the Mediterranean coast, forcing tourists to leave an area that is normally packed with visitors in the summer.

Several large fires have struck near the French Riviera this week, in resort areas near Saint-Tropez and also on the island of Corsica. Their rapid growth is being blamed on dry and windy conditions and plentiful fuel.

Some 12,000 people — including 3,000 campers — moved to safety in Bormes-les-Mimosas, east of Marseille, after a fire exploded to nearly 2,000 acres on Tuesday, reports Radio France International. Photos from the scene last night show people sleeping under sheets on the beach, with flames and smoke clearly visible inland.

On Wednesday, locals are using terms such as "apocalyptic" and "lunar landscape" to describe areas hit by fire. While some fires have been contained, others continue to pose unpredictable threats.

"The blazes on Tuesday had devoured around 4,000 hectares (15 square miles) of land along the Mediterranean coast, in the mountainous interior and on Corsica," France 24 reports, adding that more than 4,000 firefighters are attempting to control the blazes.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in a pair of tweets Wednesday, "Admiration and courage for those who fight without respite against the fire that ravages part of our territories," then adding, "and full support to those forced to leave their threatened homes."

Local governments are setting up crisis centers and online tools for helping people share shelter and supplies with one another.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.