Forest fires are raging in France, thousands have been evacuated from their homes

Forest fires are raging in France, thousands have been evacuated from their homes
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HOSTENS, France, Aug 10 (Reuters) – Wildfires raged in the Gironde region of southwest France on Wednesday, destroying homes and forcing the evacuation of 10,000 residents, some of whom had climbed onto rooftops as the flames drew closer.

A black-and-orange sky, obscured by smoke billowing from the woods and lit by the blazes, could be seen over the area as the fires continued to burn out of control despite the best efforts of firefighters, aided by depth-bomb planes.

Fires that destroyed about 6,200 hectares (15,320) have now spread to the neighboring Landes region.

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France, like the rest of Europe, has been grappling with back-to-back heat waves and the worst drought on record this summer. Dozens of wildfires are raging across the country, including at least eight large ones.

“Prepare your papers, the animals you can take with you, some belongings,” the Gironde municipality of Belin-Beliet said on Facebook before evacuating parts of the city.

In the nearby village of Hostens, police had previously gone door to door, telling residents to leave as the fire progressed. Camille Delay fled with her partner and son, grabbing their two cats, chickens and home insurance papers.

“Everyone in the village climbed onto their roofs to see what was happening – within ten minutes a small cloud of smoke became huge,” the 30-year-old told Reuters by phone.

The fire service said further evacuations were likely. Despite this, some residents of Hostens were reluctant to leave their homes.

“It’s complicated walking the dogs and we can’t leave them here,” said Allisson Horan, 18, who stayed behind with her father.

“I’m worried because the fire is behind us in a piece of land and the wind is starting to change direction.”

Numerous small roads and a motorway were closed.


More than 57,200 hectares have gone up in flames in France so far this year, nearly six times the full-year average for 2006-2021, data from the European forest fire information system shows.

“The fire creates its own wind,” senior local official Martin Guespereau told reporters, adding that efforts to fight it have been complicated by the unpredictability.

Sweden and Italy are among countries preparing to send aid to France, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

He repeatedly called for everyone’s responsibility – nine out of 10 fires were either caused by people willingly or involuntarily, he said.

The Gironde wildfire is one of many that have erupted across Europe this summer, sparked by heatwaves that have seared the continent and brought record-breaking temperatures.

In Portugal, nearly 1,200 firefighters, supported by eight planes, have been battling a fire in the mountainous Covilha area some 280 km (174 miles) northeast of Lisbon that has burned down more than 3,000 hectares of forest since Saturday.

Spain and Greece have also had to deal with several fires in recent weeks.

The Gironde was hit by major forest fires in July, which destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and temporarily displaced almost 40,000 people from their homes.

Authorities believe the latest inferno was the result of previous fires still smoldering in the area’s peaty soil.

Fires also raged in the southern departments of Lozere and Aveyron. Another fire has scorched more than 1,200 hectares in the western French department of Maine et Loire.

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Reporting by Stephane Mahe in Hostens and Layli Foroudi in Paris; Additional reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; writing by Richard Lough, Ingrid Melander; Edited by Jane Merriman, Alexandra Hudson and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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