Forest fires hit south of France

Forest fires hit south of France

31 August 2010

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France — FIREFIGHTERS have worked through the night to try to control a series of forest fires in the south of France, near Montpellier and Marseille.

The biggest, around Montaud and Saint-Bauzille-de-Montmel in the Hérault countryside north of Montpellier, destroyed more than 2,600 hectares of woodland and a dozen homes.

There have been no reported casualties.

Almost 1,000 firefighters remained on the scene last night to try to contain the fire and keep it away from the city and main roads.

Reinforcements were brought in from the Bouches-du-Rhône, Auvergne and Alpes-Maritimes.

Helicopters and Canadair firefighting planes were due to resume their work at dawn to contain the blaze and assess the damage. The fire was said to be under control shortly before midday.

Two smaller fires were reported nearby yesterday. One, between Mèze and Villeveyrac, destroyed 600 hectares of land, including four homes, a restaurant, a warehouse and a dozen vehicles.

The other was between Juvignac and Grabbels, north-west of Montpellier. Residents were evacuated as a precaution but the fire was quickly contained.

Travel delays in Bouches-du-Rhône

In the Bouches-du-Rhône, there are severe delays on the main rail line between Marseille and Toulon because of the forest fire yesterday near Cassis and La Ciotat.

Firefighters say the blaze is now under control. It spread through 250 hectares of land, fanned by a 50mph Mistral wind.

About a hundred people were evacuated from nearby homes and spent the night in a school gym. They should be allowed to go back to their homes later this morning.

Train services on the south coast mainline were suspended yesterday and are running today at a reduced speed. Some Toulon TGVs are starting from Marseille instead.

The A50 motorway remains closed this morning at Carnoux-en-Provence.

Police investigations are under way to determine the cause of the fires.

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