MARSEILLE: At least 10,000 people, including thousands of holidaymakers, were evacuated overnight after a new wildfire broke out in southern France, which was already battling massive blazes, authorities said Wednesday.
The new fire broke out a day after France asked for Europe’s help to tackle the flames already raging in several spots on the tinder-dry south, including near the popular resort of Saint-Tropez.
Firefighters are also battling fires on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica and in Portugal.
About 3,000 of the evacuees in southeast France were holidaymakers staying in campgrounds, some of whom ended up spending the night in sleeping bags on the beach.
“The evacuations, at least 10,000, followed the progression of the fire. It’s an area that doubles or triples its population in summer,” said a fire service official of the blaze near Bormes-les-Mimosas on the Mediterranean coast.
The number of people on France’s Cote d’Azur bulges in July and August as holidaymakers head to the beach, although the area is experiencing an exceptionally hot and dry summer that has made it especially vulnerable to fires.
On Tuesday over 4,000 firefighters and troops backed by 19 water bombers had already been mobilized to extinguish the flames, which have left swathes of charred earth in their wake.
At least 12 firefighters have been injured and 15 police officers affected by smoke inhalation since the fires broke out on Monday, according to the authorities.
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.
With strong winds and dry brush creating a dangerous mix, the government asked its European Union partners to send two extra fire-fighting planes—a request immediately fulfilled by Italy, according to the EU.
But one union official denounced what he said was a lack of spare parts preventing all the aircraft required from being put into action.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb announced on Tuesday that France would be adding six more firefighting planes to its fleet.
A fire in La Croix-Valmer near Saint-Tropez, a resort frequented by the rich and famous, had been contained, local fire chief Philippe Gambe de Vergnes said Tuesday.
But the blaze had already consumed 400 hectares of coastal forest in an area dotted with homes, he said. More than 200 people had to be moved from the area.