France battles ‘monster’ forest fire as heatwaves scorch Europe

France battles 'monster' forest fire as heatwaves scorch Europe
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HOSTENS, France, Aug 11 (Reuters) – A “monstrous” forest fire swept through southwestern France for a third day on Thursday, devastating forests and forcing 10,000 people to evacuate their homes.

With no abatement in scorching temperatures before the weekend, firefighters backed by water bomber planes battled on many fronts and said the huge blaze could change direction at any moment.

“He’s an ogre, he’s a monster,” Gregory Allione, of the French FNSPF fire brigade, told RTL radio.

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Wildfires have broken out across Europe this summer as successful heat waves scorch the continent and renew focus on the risks of climate change to industry and livelihoods. read more

Valentine Dupy took photos of her home on her phone before she was evacuated from Belin-Beliet, in the heart of the Gironde region, “just in case something happens.”

“It was like an apocalypse. Smoke everywhere…and planes throwing orange powder on the fire.”

Firefighters said they had managed to save their village, transformed into a ghost town after police ordered residents to evacuate as the flames approached.

But the fire reached the outskirts, leaving destroyed houses and charred tractors in its wake.

“We were lucky. Our houses were saved. But you see the catastrophe everywhere. Some houses could not be saved,” said resident Gaetan, pointing to houses burned to the ground.


Support was on the way from across Europe, with 361 firefighters, as well as bomber trucks and planes, expected to back up the 1,100 French firefighters already on the ground.

“We’re still in the phase of (trying to) confine the fire, direct it where we want it, where there’s less vegetation, where our vehicles can position themselves better… so that eventually we can fix it, control it and extinguish it.” that,” said Matthieu Jomain, spokesman for the Gironde fire department.

More than 60,000 hectares (230 square miles) have burned so far this year in France, six times the average for the entire 2006-2021 year, data from the European Forest Fire Information System shows.

French authorities said temperatures in the Gironde region would reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on Thursday and stay high through Saturday.

Firefighters warned of an “explosive cocktail” of weather conditions, with wind and tinderbox conditions helping to fan the flames.

The Gironde was hit by massive forest fires in July that destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and temporarily forced almost 40,000 people from their homes.

Hostens Mayor Jean-Louis Dartiailh described the last few weeks as a disaster.

“The area is totally disfigured. We are heartbroken, we are exhausted,” he told Radio Classique. “(This fire) is the last straw.”

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Reporting by Manuel Ausloos and Stephane Mahe in Hostens, Layli Foroudi and Michel Rose in Paris, Christina Thykjaer in Madrid and Catarina Demony in Lisbon; written by Richard Lough, Michel Rose, Ingrid Melander; edited by Jason Neely, Andrew Heavens and Alex Richardson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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