France: 1,200 firefighters engaged in 'fierce struggle' against wildfire

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By Euronews  with AFP
A wildifre in Bouches-Du-Rhone, seen on August 4, 2020.
A wildifre in Bouches-Du-Rhone, seen on August 4, 2020.   -  Copyright  Twitter/@Pompiers_13

More than 1,200 firefighters were on Tuesday engaged in a "fierce struggle" against a wildfire in southeastern France.

The fire service for the Bouches-du-Rhone department said the "violent" blaze had travelled eight kilometres in under two hours. By 20:00 CET, at least 500 hectares of vegetation had been devastated.

Several habitations and multiple businesses including three camping sites near the municipalities of Martigues and Port du Bouc had to be evacuated with authorities calling on people to avoid taking the taking certain roads.

"The fierce struggle will continue throughout the night to bring the population to safety and protect homes," the fire service said on Twitter.

More than 30 trucks were also deployed, assisted by seven water bomber planes.

Martigues' town hall has opened five reception centres for evacuees.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who reviewed the wildfire prevention and control system in the Bouches-du-Rhone on Tuesday morning, said then that "reckless behaviour" is often to blame for wildfire, "resulting in significant human and environmental risks."

"I urge everyone to be civic-minded and vigilant," he added. He is to return to the area later on Tuesday evening or during the night.

It remains unclear how this wildfire started but access to forests in the area has been restricted since the weekend because strong winds and high temperatures increased the risk of wildfire.

Between 2015 and 2019, an annual average of 9,300 hectares went up in flames in each département along France's Mediterranean coastline.