Fires blaze through southern France, burn many homes

Wildfires have spread through southern France and Portugal, injuring several people and forcing many others to evacuate their homes.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A French fireman stands in the road as smoke fills the sky and partially blocks the sun as fires burn north of Marseille, France, August 10, 2016.

Fires spread through areas of southern France and Portugal on Wednesday, killing at least four people and burning many homes, forcing the evacuation of thousands, including tourists.

Two people were reported injured, one in serious condition, as a result of the fire advancing towards the Mediterranean port city of Marseille in southern France, firefighters said, while 20 to 25 homes were burned. 

At least 2,700 hectares of land were devastated. Four firefighters were injured, with one in serious condition, while fighting a separate blaze in the nearby Herault region.

Marseille-Provence Airport rerouted incoming flights to make way for firefighting aircraft. Most commercial air flights leaving Marseille were delayed or cancelled, according to the local airport’s website.


A Vitrolles resident, Caroline Vidal told iTele TV, "It was a scene really like the end of the world," referring to what she was faced with while fleeing her home to her grandmother’s house, seeing people wandering around frantically on the highway.

In southern France more than 1,000 people were evacuated from several towns, notably Vitrolles, about 25 kilometres north of Marseille where some homes were burned down, and in nearby Pennes-Mirabeau.

Deputy Marseille Mayor Julien Ruas told BFM-TV that firewalls had been set up on the corridor leading towards the city, but if the fire passed those "it will move towards the northern neighborhoods of Marseille."

"The fire is extremely powerful, fast, explosive, and continues burning everything in its path," firefighters said in a statement from a temporary headquarters set up in Vitrolles.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, visiting firemen in several locations, said 1,800 firefighters were mobilised to fight the blazes. Some 400 police officers were helping towns secure homes and firefighting aircraft, from Canadairs to Trackers, were put into force.

The initial cause of the fires in France, which started in Rognac, north of Vitrolles, is unknown.

France’s government has requested help from other European Union countries.

Portugal has also been severly affected by wildfires, which  have left 4 people dead and many injured in the country.

In an immediate response to Portugal's request for assistance, the EU activated the Civil Protection Mechanism to help stop the spread of forest fires in several parts of the country.

TRTWorld and agencies