One person killed as French wildfire rages out of control

Roads closed and access to forests blocked as firefighters tackle inferno

One person has been killed as a wildfire rages out of control in southern France forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.

More than 1,100 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze in the Var region of the French Riviera.

Wildfires have swept across the Mediterranean region in recent weeks, leaving areas of Greece, Turkey, Italy, Algeria and Spain in smouldering ruin.

The fire “had not spread” overnight into Wednesday but “that does not mean it is under control”, Var fire service spokesman Franck Graciano said.

“We will carry out the same basic work as yesterday by dropping water on the critical places."

Some roads are closed and access to forests is blocked as firefighters tackle the inferno, fuelled by powerful seasonal winds coming off the Mediterranean.

More than 7,000 people were helped to leave their homes and campsites to sleep in temporary shelter after the fire started about 40 kilometres inland from the coastal resort of Saint-Tropez on Monday.

“Half of the Plain des Maures nature reserve has been devastated,” said Concha Agero, deputy director of the French Office of Biodiversity.

Planes and helicopters are dumping water on to the blaze as firefighters try to bring the wildfire, covering 7,000 hectares of tinder-dry forest, under control.

“We started smelling the smoke around 7pm, then we saw the flames on the hill,” said Cindy Thinesse, who fled a campsite near Cavalaire.

“We've never seen it spread with such speed, it was three or four times the usual,” said Thomas Dombry, mayor of La Garde-Freinet village.

French officials have not released details about the victim.

Twenty seven people have been injured, including 19 who inhaled toxic fumes, and five members of the fire service.

President Emmanuel Macron visited the area on Tuesday evening. “The coming hours will be absolutely decisive,” he said.

Fire risk high

The fire risk remains high for Wednesday because of hot, dry weather and high temperatures that have reached 40°C in recent days.

While the area is known for its sunny, hot summers, scientists say there is little doubt that climate change is driving extreme events such as heatwaves, drought and wildfires.

In Greece, wildfires sparked evacuation alerts on Monday, only days after flames nearby were brought under control.

In Turkey, eight people were killed when a Russian firefighting aircraft helping to tackle the flames crashed on Saturday.

Fires in Spain's central Avila province forced hundreds of people to flee their homes on Sunday.

Updated: August 18th 2021, 12:21 PM