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France evacuates thousands as wildfires spread

France has asked other EU members for help in fighting several wildfires in the southeast of the country, including one near Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera. At least 10,000 people have been evacuated from the area.

Over 4,000 firefighters and security forces have been deployed to combat the flames, backed by 19 planes. The French authorities launched a large-scale evacuation overnight on Wednesday as another blaze started on the tourism-dependent Cote d'Azur in France's southeast, also known as the French Riviera.

"The evacuations, at least 10,000, followed the progression of the fire," a fire service official near Bormes-les-Mimosas said. "It's an area that doubles or triples its population in summer." Some 3,000 evacuees were holidaymakers.

At least 12 firefighters have been injured and 15 suffered from smoke inhalation since the fires started on Monday. There were no immediate reports of injured tourists.

Read more: Wildfires rage through Southeast Europe

'There is nothing left'

Hot weather and strong winds strained the responders, with firefighters from the north arriving to back up their colleagues on the Mediterranean coast. 

"All of France is mobilized," the head of the fire service in southeast France, Colonel Gregory Allione told the "France Info" radio station. Italy sent two additional firefighting planes after Paris asked the EU for help.

Authorities have managed to contain the blaze in La Croix near the luxury resort of Saint-Tropez. However, the fire had already burned through 400 hectares (1.5 square miles) of forest along the coastline.

Read more: California fires spread quickly in record-breaking heat

"It's a disaster area. There's nothing left," La Croix-Valmer's deputy mayor Rene Carandante said.

The largest individual blaze, however, hit the island of Corsica, burning 2,000 hectares of land. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb visited the island on Tuesday, pledging that France would be adding six more planes to the firefighting fleet.

Europe and North America have seen scores of wildfires threaten the population this summer. After facing a blaze that killed at least 64 people last month, Portugal has been battling fresh fires since Sunday. Rescuers evacuated 20 villages in the European country.

dj/ng (AFP, AP, dpa)

 

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