PARIS (Reuters) – About 1,000 firefighters, supported by six water-bomber aircraft, were battling on Thursday to bring under control two wildfires in southwestern France that have already burnt almost 4,000 hectares.
“The fires are still not under control, no casualties were reported” said the local authority for the Gironde department, where the blazes, which started on Tuesday, were raging.
France, already hit by a series of wildfires over the last few weeks, is suffering – like the rest of Europe – from a second heatwave in as many months.
“Since the start of the year, 15,000 hectares have been burnt in the country, versus a little less than 1,000 hectares at the same date last year … nine fires out of 10 have a human cause,” Interior minister Gerald Darmanin told reporters on Wednesday night.
Elsewhere in Europe, thousands of firefighters battled more than 20 blazes that raged on Wednesday across Portugal and western Spain, menacing villages and disrupting tourists’ holidays amid a heatwave that pushed temperatures above 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in some parts of the region.
The biggest of the two Gironde fires is around the town of Landiras, south of Bordeaux, where roads have been closed and 500 residents evacuated, with the blaze having already burnt 2,100 hectares (5,190 acres).
The other one is along the Atlantic Coast, close to the iconic “Dune du Pilat” – the tallest sand dune in Europe – located in the Arcachon Bay area, above which heavy clouds of dark smoke were seen rising in the sky.
That fire has already burnt 1,750 hectares and led to the preventive evacuation on Wednesday of 6,000 people from five surrounding campsites. Another 60 people were evacuated early on Thursday.
(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Jason Neely and Alex Richardson)