‘Imbeciles’: Hundreds evacuated from their homes as bushfire caused by French military threatens Marseille

   ‘Imbeciles’: Hundreds evacuated from their homes as bushfire caused by French military threatens Marseille

23 July 2009

published by www.dailymail.co.uk

France — The French Army were branded ‘imbeciles’ today after an artillery exercise caused a massive fire which destroyed dozens of houses and left hundreds homeless.

Rather than improving the marksmanship of the Foreign Legion, the shelling led to mass evacuations in a suburb of Marseilles.

More than 300 people have been evacuated from their homes and more than 1,000 acres of bush were left blazing, as 170 firefighters backed by helicopters and waterbombing aircraft fought the fire.

As it continued to blaze today, military chiefs were making panicked apologies for the disaster.

‘It was a terrible error, and we regret that so many people have had to be evacuated from their homes,’ said an Army spokesman.

‘This was caused by bombing practice by the Foreign Legion. We are not aware of any victims.’

But local prefect Michel Sappin attacked the ‘imbeciles’ in charge, saying he was ‘absolutely exasperated by what has happened.’

Mr Sappin called for a full enquiry and court martials for all the officers who had had been directing the shelling.

Among those left without a roof over their heads were 120 pensioners from a single retirement home.

Mothers and young babies from a maternity centre also had to be moved to a local gym because of the fire, which is likely to lead to compensation claims worth millions.

After the initial blasts on Wednesday afternoon, a wildfire was caused by the Army guns in the Trois-Ponts suburbs of the Mediterranean city.

They were practicing in scorching summer temperatures, meaning that almost every shell which landed started a fire.

The blaze spread down a hill, with terrified residents spraying water at their houses before being forced to evacuate.

‘I’ve lost my home – my car, and all my possessions,’ said Jean Martinez, 48.

‘My whole family is now living in a gym, and it’s all because of these ridiculous soldiers. They did not seem to have a clue what they were doing.’

The French Army has had one of the worst military reputations in the world since capitulating to the Germans at the start of World War II.

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