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Summer wildfires

Slight relief after southern European wildfire dramas

A wildfire at Yeste in southeastern Spain has forced the evacuation of 300 people. It's the latest in a patchwork of blazes across tinder-dry southern Europe, including France and Portugal.

Smoke rising above a beach in Bormes-les-Mimosas - Strandurlaub (Reuters/J.P. Pelissier)

Dramatic moments along France's Riviera

Spain's Castilla-La Manca regional government said Saturday villages and campsites around Yeste had been vacated after firefighters working overnight had failed to stop advancing flames.

So far, 1,000 hectares (nearly 4 square miles) of pine forest had been scorched since the blaze began Thursday, said regional spokeswoman Ana Cuevas.

Southern Europe, a magnet for tourists, is experiencing an especially hot and dry summer that has already resulted in wildfires along the French Riviera and in central Portugal.

Daytime temperatures were forecast to remain in the mid-30-degree Celsius (mid-95 Fahrenheit) range for the next two weeks across southern Europe.

Alerts remain

Authorities in France's Cote d'Azur remained on high alert Saturday after taming foothill forest blazes for four days.

Late Thursday, some 12,000 evacuated residents and holidaymakers were told they could return to the seaside town of Bormes-les-Mimosas in the Var region.

From Monday, some 3,000 firefighters had been deployed in the vast Var region and on Corsica to fight scores of blazes that consumed 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) of trees and other vegetation.

Two teenage boys initially suspected of having roles in one fire at Carro, west of Marseille, were freed without charge Friday but retained as witnesses.

A preliminary charge of involuntarily sparking a fire was also laid against a man who had been using a metal-cutting device at Peynier, just north of Marseille.

It took 300 firefighters to extinguish that blaze, which burned 72 hectares (178 acres) of vegetation.

In Paris, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said an Italian firefighting plane used along France's Mediterranean coast had returned to Italy, which, too, is on bushfire alert.

Sharing resources

French President Emmanuel Macron, hosting Prime Minister Antonio Costa of Portugal, which lost 64 people in a fatal blaze last month, discussed the possibility of sharing equipment and manpower.

On Wednesday, firefighters in central Portugal's Castelo Branco region managed to bring under control fires that blackened a swathe of pine and eucalyptus plantings.

Portuguese civil protection spokeswoman said the weather "is still against us."

Risk potential

Last week, Portugal's parliament voted to reduce plantings of eucalyptus, used by the paper industry, but regarded as highly flammable.

Experts say said a drop-off in farming in southeastern France since the 1970s has allowed vegetation to mushroom, making that region more prone to fires.

ipj/tj (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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