French Firefighters Begin to Contain Wildfires


Numerous evacuated tourists and residents had been staying in gymnasiums, a sailing club and other makeshift shelters in Bormes-Les-Mimosas, La Londe-Les-Maures and La Lavandou.

Mistral winds spread the fires quickly causing 60 people to be evacuated by boat while others spent the night in gyms, public places, or on the beach.

Another wildfire that has burned through 1,700 hectares remained out of control around the back-country village of Artigue, site of Medieval vestiges.

He said one of the fiercest fires, deep in the back country in Artigues, remains out of control.

The Civil Protection Agency reports it has deployed more than 1,100 firefighters and 23 water-dropping aircraft to 13 blazes.

Nearly 1,000 other firefighters are conducting mopping-up operations at 37 other Portuguese woodland blazes Wednesday.

Almost 8,000 forest fires have broken out in Portugal since the beginning of the year, consuming 75,000 hectares of forests - a 10-year-record - and 80 percent of the country is suffering from severe or extreme drought.

Officials in Portugal say they don't expect a forecast drop in temperatures to help extinguish a spate of summer wildfires.

A total 480 firefighters are still working to fight the flames.

Ash floated in the air and vast plumes of smoke covered areas of central Portugal, in the area around Serta, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Lisbon.

Authorities warned that the danger is far from over even though they have tamed most of the blazes that scorched over 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) of land, destroyed homes and forced the evacuation of thousands in the worst fires France has seen in more than a decade.

"The situation remains hard, I must say".

Francois Arizzi, the mayor of the French town of Bormes-Les-Mimosas, a tourist magnet in the Var region on the Cote d'Azur that saw one of the most dramatic wildfires, is among several officials to say some of the five days of wildfires were caused by arsonists. He said he expected flareups Thursday afternoon due to lack of moisture and a pickup in the wind.

The civil protection authority is providing refuge for the displaced.

A sailing club near Bormes Les Mimosas port has been transformed into a shelter for people affected by the wildfires burning along France's southern Cote d'Azur coast.

Further south of the French mainland, flames ate through 2,000 hectares of forest on the northern end of the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, in what was the largest blaze in France.

There have been no reported casualties in France.