BORMES-LES-MIMOSAS, France (AP) — A wildfire near the French Riviera has killed one person and remained out of control Wednesday as over 1,100 firefighters battled flames fueled by wind and drought in the forests of the popular tourist region, authorities said.
A neighbor found the “burned” body of the fire victim, whose home near the town of Grimaud was destroyed by the fire, the local prosecutor said in a statement. An investigation has been opened to formally identify the person and determine the causes of death.
French newspaper Var-Matin identified the victim as a man.
At least 27 people, including five firefighters, have suffered smoke inhalation or minor injuries from the blaze, the prefecture of the Var region said in a statement.
More than 7,000 people evacuated from homes and campgrounds have slept in temporary shelters, according to the prefecture. Among them were over 1,000 people who stayed in and around a gymnasium in the seaside resort of Bormes-Les-Mimosas as local authorities supplied food and water.
Vassili Bartoletti and his family, who are from northeastern France, were evacuated early Tuesday from a campground where they had been vacationing.
“Around midnight, someone knocked at our door and told us to take our belongings and leave. At the end of the alley, we could see the red flames,” he told the Associated Press. “So we left hastily.”
Bartoletti said his 6-year-old son was “very anxious” about the fire. “I showed him the map. I showed him we were far away, that we’ve been moved to a safe place” in Bormes-Les-Mimosas, he said.
Last month, while the family was on vacation on the Italian island of Sardinia, a major blaze there for three days threatened the town where they had rented a house. They did not have to evacuate then, but smoke, water-dumping planes and helicopters going back and forth surrounded the place.
On the French Riviera, over 1,100 firefighters were being deployed Wednesday to battle the fire, which started Monday evening about 40 kilometers (24 miles) inland from the coastal resort of Saint-Tropez.
Fueled by powerful seasonal winds coming off the Mediterranean Sea, the fire had encompassed 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) of forest by Wednesday morning, the prefecture said.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been vacationing in a nearby coastal fortress, visited the fire zone on Tuesday. He praised firefighters for being able to “stabilize” the blaze.
Local authorities closed roads, blocked access to forests and urged caution. Officials warned that the fire risk would remain very high through Wednesday because of hot, dry weather. Temperatures have reached 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) in recent days.
Wildfires have swept across the Mediterranean regionin recent weeks, leaving areas in Greece, Turkey, Italy, Algeria and Spain in smoldering ruins.
In Greece, a major wildfire northwest of Athens, the capital, decimated large tracts of pine forest for a third dayon Wednesday.
In neighboring Albania, hundreds of hectares (thousand of acres) have burned over the last month. Police reported Wednesday that a former deputy minister has been arrested for arson. The former minister is accused of having set a fire in a vineyard that spread to a broader area, police said.
In Spain, authorities in the central region of Castilla y León said that firefighters had established a perimeter around a blaze that consumed at least 12,000 hectares (29,650 acres) this week. A fire on the Canary Islands was also brought under control after singeing 300 hectares (741 acres) of mostly agricultural land.
While the Mediterranean is known for its sunny, hot summers, scientists voice little doubt thatclimate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving extreme events such as heat waves, droughts and wildfires. Such hardships are likely to happen more frequently as Earth continues to warm, they say.
Corbet contributed from Saulieu, France. Elena Becatoros in Athens, Greece, Joseph Wilson in Madrid, and Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania contributed to thisstory.
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