Forest fires rage in France, thousands evacuated from homes

PARIS, Aug 10 (Reuters) – A massive wildfire that has destroyed more than a dozen homes and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents, some of whom had climbed onto rooftops as the blaze approached, swept through the Gironde region in southwestern France on Wednesday.

More than 1,000 firefighters supported by water bomber planes were battling the blaze which has razed more than 6,000 hectares and continues to burn uncontrollably.

France, like the rest of Europe, is grappling with successive heat waves and its worst drought on record. Dozens of wildfires are burning across the country, including at least four other major ones.

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Camille Delay fled her hometown of Hostens on the orders of emergency services on Tuesday evening with her partner and son as a wall of flames rapidly approached.

The couple grabbed their two cats, chickens and home insurance documents before fleeing, she said.

“Everyone in the village went up to their roofs to see what was happening – in ten minutes a little whirlwind of smoke became huge,” the 30-year-old told Reuters by phone.

The local Gironde authority described the fire as “creeping”. Firefighters said further evacuations were likely.

The Gironde was affected by major forest fires in July which destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and temporarily forced nearly 40,000 people from their homes.

Authorities believe the latest blaze was the result of previous fires still smoldering in the area’s peaty soil.

Fires were also raging in the southern departments of Lozère and Aveyron. In the Maine et Loire department in western France, more than 1,200 hectares have been ravaged by another fire.

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Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Layli Foroudi; Editing by Jane Merriman, Richard Lough, Alexandra Hudson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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