Frejus – Five thousand people – many of them foreign tourists – were evacuated from six camping grounds on the French Riviera on Tuesday as an intense forest fire driven by high winds advanced on their tents and caravans, officials said.
The fire apparently started in three different locations around the village of Puget sur Argens, near the chic coastal town of Saint Raphael, and was raging through dry woodland, emergency services said.
More than 400 firefighters, backed by dozens of vehicles and 11 waterbombing aircraft, were battling the flames, trying to stop them before they spread to 1 500 homes built in the forested area.
The fire broke out at the start of the European summer vacation period, a time in which millions of tourists from Britain, Germany, Scandinavia and elsewhere flock to the Riviera to soak up the sun.
Firefighting officials said “five thousands people have evacuated the six camping grounds around Frejus”.
Sending water from above: Water is poured over vegetation to fight the fire which destroyed almost 800 hectares of forest in the Puget-sur-Argens region
Earlier, Philippe Tran, an official at France’s National Forestry Office helping to coordinate the firefightingoperations, told reporters “more than ten thousand people” had been evacuated from just two of thecampsites.
Tran said several caravans had been consumed or damaged by the blaze at one of thesites, Holiday Green.
The regional government office, or prefecture, was not immediately able to give a number ofevacuees, but said 650 hectares had been scorched by the fire.
It said two firefighters had been slightly hurt.
Firefighters said a high-tension powerline was brought down by the flames, cutting electricity to 4 000 homes inFrejus. –