Two dead in St Tropez wildfires as thousands are forced to flee blaze

Two dead in St Tropez wildfires including one so badly burned investigators ‘cannot tell whether victim is a man or woman’ as thousands forced to flee Riviera blaze

  • Two dead bodies were found in a home that burned down near town of Grimaud
  • The fire has so far scorched some 7,000 hectares in the southern Var region
  • At least 27 people, including five firefighters, have suffered smoke inhalation or minor injuries from the blaze
  • The wildfire has forced more than 7,000 people to flee homes, campgrounds and hotels, sending them to sleep in temporary shelters

Hundreds of firefighters struggled for a third day to contain France’s worst wildfire of the summer near the Riviera resort of St Tropez which has left two dead and forced thousands of residents and tourists to flee the blaze.

One of the victims of the wildfire was so badly burned that investigators seeking to identify the charred body ‘could not tell whether it is a man or woman’.   

The blaze is the latest to hit a Mediterranean region that has been an onslaught of fires claim lives in Greece, Turkey, Italy and Algeria in recent weeks, with numerous officials saying climate change is the cause.  

The fire near St Tropez has scorched some 7,000 hectares in the Var region, which is known for its forests, vineyards and fauna since it broke out in the Plaine des Maures nature reserve on Monday evening.

Hundreds of firefighters struggled for a third day to contain France’s worst wildfire of the summer near the Riviera resort of St Tropez

A fire brigade truck from the southern Var region drives next to a wildfire near Le Luc near the French Riviera on Wednesday

Whipped up by powerful seasonal winds coming off the Mediterranean Sea, the fire near St Tropez has scorched some 7,000 hectares in a region known for its forests, vineyards and fauna since it broke out in the Plaine des Maures nature reserve on Monday evening

Burned out cars are seen outside a house destroyed by forest fires, near Grimaud on Wednesday

The fire ‘had not spread’ during the night but ‘that does not mean it is under control,’ said the fire service spokesman for the Var region, Franck Graciano.

‘We will carry out the same basic work as yesterday by dropping water on the critical places,’ he said. 

Var’s senior local official, or prefect, Evence Richard said two people had been found dead. 

The local prosecutor said the bodies were found in a home that burned down near the town of Grimaud.  

Investigators were seeking to identify the corpse, which was so badly disfigured that ‘nothing can indicate whether it is a man or a woman,’ prosecutor Patrice Camberou said. ‘The house was completely destroyed by fire,’ he added.

The other victim was a man, authorities said.

At least 27 people, including five firefighters, have suffered smoke inhalation or minor injuries from the blaze, the prefecture of the Var region said.  

Authorities closed a road north of the fire area on Wednesday afternoon due to the thick smoke.

Around 1,200 firefighters were deployed, some using high-pressure hoses and water-bombing planes and helicopters to control the flames. 

Around 1,200 firefighters were deployed, some using high-pressure hoses and water-bombing planes and helicopters to control the flames

A fire rips through the forest near Le Luc in the Var region on Wednesday as smoke filled the air 

At least 27 people, including five firefighters, have suffered smoke inhalation or minor injuries from the blaze, the prefecture of the Var region said

The wildfire has forced more than 7,000 people to flee homes, campgrounds and hotels, sending them to sleep in temporary shelters, according to the prefecture.

Among them were 1,300 people staying at a campsite in the village of Bormes-les-Mimosas down the coast from Saint-Tropez. 

Speaking about the thousands evacuated, Richard said ‘we will re-evaluate the situation at the end of the afternoon… but for now a return is not on the agenda.

Around 1,200 firefighters were deployed, some using high-pressure hoses and water-bombing planes and helicopters to control the flames.    

Others fled the village of La Garde-Freinet, but there were no new evacuations overnight, the fire service said Wednesday.

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

‘We hesitated, but when we saw that, we decided to leave,’ she told AFP.

The wildfire has forced more than 7,000 people to flee homes, campgrounds and hotels, sending them to sleep in temporary shelters, according to the prefecture

Evacuated campers rest in a gymnasium in Bormes-les-Mimosas, southern France on Wednesday

Burned remains of furniture and household goods lie scattered outside of a house destroyed by forest fire near Grimaud

Vassili Bartoletti and his family, who are from northeastern France, were evacuated early Tuesday from a campground where they had been vacationing.

‘Around midnight, someone knocked at our door and told us to take our belongings and leave.

‘At the end of the alley, we could see the red flames,’ he said. ‘So we left hastily.’

Mr Bartoletti said his six-year-old son was ‘very anxious’ about the fire.

‘I showed him the map,’ he said. ‘I showed him we were far away, that we’ve been moved to a safe place [in Bormes-Les-Mimosas].’ 

Last month, while the family was on vacation on the Italian island of Sardinia, a major blaze there for three days threatened the town where they had rented a house.

They did not have to evacuate but endured smoke in the air and saw water-dumping planes and helicopters going back and forth repeatedly.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been vacationing in a nearby coastal fortress, visited the fire zone and praised the firefighters for their work.

‘The coming hours will be absolutely decisive’ for the firefighting effort, Macron said during a visit to first responders on Tuesday evening. 

While Macron added that ‘the battle is ongoing and the fire has not yet been contained, stabilised,’ he said that the firefighters’ courage had managed to ‘avoid the worst’.  

Tourists watch from the roadside as dense smoke darkens the sky from reignited forest fires north of Grimaud on Wednesday

The French fire is believed to have started near a motorway stop some 30 kilometres (18 miles) northwest of Saint-Tropez.

‘We’ve never seen it spread with such speed, it was three or four times the usual,’ La Garde-Freinet’s mayor Thomas Dombry told AFP.

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

Charred power lines lay on the ground Tuesday, and many trees were burnt around their trunks but their branches were intact, suggesting the fire had ripped through at speed.

But after a calm night, on Wednesday technicians began trying to restore phone and electricity lines. 

Firefighters battle to extinguish the wildfire near Le Luc on Wednesday as smoke filled the air

Firefighters carry heavy hoses in an attempt to extinguish the wildfire in Vidauban in the Var region on Wednesday

French officials warned that the fire risk would remain very high through Wednesday because of hot, dry weather. 

Temperatures have reached 40Cs (104F) in recent days.

The Mediterranean basin has long faced seasonal wildfires linked to its dry and hot weather in the summer, but climate scientists warn they will become increasingly common because of man-made global warming.

A draft UN assessment seen exclusively by AFP says that fire seasons will also last longer in the Mediterranean, which it called a ‘climate change hotspot’.

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

In Greece on Wednesday, a major wildfire northwest of Athens, the capital, decimated large tracts of pine forest for a third straight day.

In neighbouring Albania, hundreds of hectares (thousand of acres) have burned over the last month.

Police reported on Wednesday that a former deputy minister has been arrested for arson.

In Spain, authorities in the central region of Castilla y Leon said firefighters had established a perimeter around a blaze that has consumed at least 12,000 hectares this week.

A fire on the Canary Islands was also brought under control after singeing 300 hectares of farmland.

While the Mediterranean is known for its sunny, hot summers, scientists voice little doubt that climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving extreme events such as heat waves, droughts and wildfires.

Such hardships are likely to happen more frequently as the Earth continues to warm, they say. 

Source: Read Full Article