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Fires force evacuation of 10,000 in 3 French Riviera towns

CLAUDE PARIS, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jul 26th, 2017

0726-francefires
People watch smoke rising above a forest as a wildfire burns near La Londe-les-Maures on the French Riviera on July 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Authorities ordered the evacuation of 10,000 people as fires hopscotched around the Riviera for a third day Wednesday, tearing through the forest of La Londe-les-Maures.

A violent fire took off in the dry Mediterranean forests around La Londe just before 11 p.m. the night before, and 540 firefighters were sent into the region, the prefect of the Var region, the top state official, said in a statement.

About 3,000 campers were among the 10,000 evacuated from La Londe and nearby Bormes-les-Mimosas and La Lavandou, the statement said. La Londe is under 30 kilometres from the city of Toulon. Tourists from France and elsewhere flock each summer to the coast.

Four tracker planes and a fire-fighting aircraft were sent in. About 800 hectares of back-country forest had burned by morning.

Fires began raging along the coast on Monday, forcing smaller, scattered evacuations with flames reaching a corner of Saint-Tropez. Since noon Tuesday, firefighters had conducted about 100 operations, the prefecture said.

Further east, reinforcements were sent in to battle a blaze in Artigues that burned up to 1,700 hectares of forested land.

Another fire was contained Tuesday evening in La Croix Valmer after burning two villas, seriously injuring one firefighter and devouring about 500 hectares.

France’s Mediterranean coast is particularly vulnerable to fires, with its massive back-country forests, often dry in the summer, and Mistral winds blowing across the sea to fan flames. Smoke blew across the shores from the fires that were visible across bays on the picturesque coast, frightening some. But firefighters warned against panic. No injuries have been reported among residents and vacationers.

Further south, flames ate through some 2,000 hectares of forest on the northern end of the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, in what was the largest blaze.

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