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Fires lay waste to large areas of southern France

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Fires lay waste to large areas of southern France


Forest fires are laying waste to large areas of southern France.

Fires are spreading in the Herault, Gard and Bouches-du-Rhone departments.

The worst fires in two decades

The fires are raging across parts of France’s Mediterranean coast.

The worst in almost two decades are burning around Marseille.

Seven people have been injured, four seriously, and thousands have been evacuated from their homes.

How many firefighters are at the scene?

Around 2,500.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says they have support from firefighting planes from France and neighbouring Italy.

What has sparked the fires?

The interior minister says it is too early to say if it was a criminal act.

A man is being questioned by police.

The 50-year-old was seen taking pictures of the blaze at Vitrolles, 20 km northwest of Marseille.

High winds, combined with the dry weather conditions, have facilitated the spread of the fires.

Thick smoke is visible across the region.

What is the Mistral?

The strong, northerly wind known locally as the “Mistral” has contributed to the spread of the fires.

Coming down the Rhone valley to the Mediterranean, it can reach speeds from 40 to 100 km per hour

Read more here

Is Marseille at risk?

Not yet.

After laying waste to more than 2,000 hectares of parched countryside, the flames have stopped on the northern outskirts of France’s second-biggest city.

Local authorities say the situation is under control, although some fires are still active.

Has there been much damage?


More than 20 houses burnt down around Vitrolles.

The local newspaper, La Provence, showed pictures of a secondary school in the town of Les Pennes-Mirabeau destroyed by the flames.

Only slight damage has been reported at the minerals terminal at the petrochemical complex of Fos-sur-Mer, which includes several refineries and oil depots.

The oil terminal is undamaged.

What about Marseille Airport?

The situation at the airport is getting back to normal after earlier delays and cancellations.

Traffic is disrupted as some roads leading to the airport are still closed.

In tweets

What they are saying

“The drought of the last few months and the strong mistral winds worked like a powder keg. The fires spread at a phenomenal speed, up to 2,500 metres an hour,” – Head of the regional firefighting service Richard Mallie.

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