French Riviera | Violent fires, evacuations and scenes of devastation

(Le Luc) A thousand firefighters were mobilized on Tuesday evening to fix the biggest fire of the summer in France, in the hinterland of Saint-Tropez, where the wind has finally subsided, but 7000 people are preparing to spend another night from At home.

Posted on Aug 17, 2021 at 6:53 am Updated at 3:01 pm

Estelle EMONET with Fabien NOVIAL in Bormes-les-Mimosas Agence France-Presse

“There is no more wind at all, so we will be busy drowning all edges (borders),” the spokesman for the Var fire department told AFP on Tuesday evening. “The situation is not as alarming as it was last night, but it remains worrying,” he added, citing “some worrying outbreaks”.

The fire that broke out on Monday near a motorway rest area covered 6,675 hectares and burned 4,000, according to the fire department. A thousand of them, many of them as reinforcements from all over France, stayed in action overnight with 225 vehicles.

According to the Var prefecture, 7,000 people, residents, but also French and foreign tourists, have been evacuated from their homes or campsites. “They are still unable to get to their home or vacation spot,” she said in a statement.

To protect them, 15 reception centers have been activated in the eight communities on the Var coast. Two federal highways remain closed to traffic.

The President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron, who had come to the rescue in the late afternoon, had estimated that “the next few hours are absolutely crucial” in order to put the huge fire out.

The head of state praised the “courage” of the hundreds of firefighters, rescue workers and local officials who are engaged in the fight against the flames. “The worst was avoided,” he said, saying that despite its speed and severity, the fire had not caused any losses at the time.

Before dark, the gendarmes carried out new “very dangerous” evacuations of people who lived north of the village of Garde-Freinet, they told AFP.

PHOTO DANIEL COLE, AP

A forest fire rages near Le Luc in southern France.

In Gonfaron, a few meters from the A57 motorway, where the fire broke out on Monday, a volunteer firefighter complained: “My forest is on fire … You have to go quickly, it’s a race against time.”

“Evacuated in 30 minutes”

On the road that crosses the Massif des Maures, there are power lines on the ground, poles and trunks are charred and the vine is burned in places, an AFP team found.

In this region, known for its Côtes-de-Provence wines, Sereine Mauborgne, LREM member of the Var, expressed her fears to the president: “We will harvest in ten days, with delayed products we risk losses.”

A dozen houses were also “destroyed” by the flames, according to the gendarmes, who deployed 120 workers in the area to help the population, but also to regulate traffic flows, cut several axes or monitor traffic. abandoned by their residents.

In Bormes-les-Mimosas, on the coast, almost 1,300 people, mostly vacationers from a neighboring campsite, were accommodated in a gym.

“We were evacuated in 30 minutes. Really great, synchronized, don’t panic. Congratulations to the whole team, because they really did everything that was necessary to evacuate us ”, Sylvie Defrancheschi, a tourist from Haute-Savoie who was evacuated with her two children, told AFP.

Burned turtles

The environmental damage is considerable: “Half of the Plaine des Maures nature reserve has been devastated. It’s a disaster because it’s one of the last places Hermann’s tortoise is protected, ”Concha Agero, deputy director of the French biodiversity bureau, told AFP. Burned turtles have already been found. Others may have managed to bury themselves underground to survive.

So far, France has been relatively spared the fires that devastated thousands of hectares and claimed dozens of victims in several Mediterranean countries, from Turkey to Greece to Algeria. According to the Prometheus database, around 2,340 hectares were burned in France in the Mediterranean basin (four affected regions) in 2021, up from 7,698 hectares in 2020.

In addition to the Var fire, more than 300 firefighters are fighting a fire on Tuesday in the Beaumes-de-Venise region, which is known for its wineries.

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