“The next few hours will be crucial”



Thousands of people were evacuated preventively by a Forest fire that sweeps the outskirts of the luxurious tourist town of Saint-Tropez since Monday, in the South of France. Around 900 firefighters and tanker aircraft were deployed to fight the fire in difficult conditions, with high temperatures and strong winds.

On Tuesday night, the wind seemed to calm down and firefighters were preparing to flood the edges of the firea fire department spokesman told AFP. “The situation is no longer as alarming as last night, but it is still worrying,” said the official, underlining his concern about “some outbreaks.”

According to the Var department prefecture, 7,000 people, between inhabitants and tourists, were evacuated from their homes or campsites where they were staying. “It is not possible for the moment that they will return,” he said in a statement.

To welcome them, they were activated 15 reception centers in eight localities of the department, where two roads remain closed to traffic.

«They evacuated us in 30 minutes. Really, very well, synchronized, calm, “assured AFP Sylvie Defrancheschi, a French tourist evacuated with her two children to Bormes-les-Mimosas.

During a visit to the scene of the incident, French President Emmanuel Macron, assured that “The next few hours will be crucial”. Firefighters “avoided the worst,” he explained.

“The flames spread at 4 km per hour when the usual is 1 km per hour”

The south of France is the most recent area of ​​the Mediterranean basin affected by forest fires this summer, a seasonal phenomenon that scientists warn will be increasingly prevalent due to global warming caused by humans.

The fire broke out on Monday at a motorway halt about 100 kilometers northeast of the port city of Toulon and already has burned 4,000 hectares of forest and scrub, according to firefighters.

In the morning, firefighters feared that the fire would strengthen during the day due to high temperatures and wind. «The flames spread at 4 km per hour, when the usual is 1 km per hour, “said a communication officer of the fire brigade at the command post established in the commune of Le Luc.

A great loss of biodiversity

“Half of the Maures plain nature reserve has been devastated. It’s a catastrophe because it is one of the last places where Hermann’s tortoise lives“Concha Agero, deputy director of the French Biodiversity Office, told AFP. In fact, charred tortoises have already been found, but it is hoped that other specimens may flee underground to survive.

Despite the fire, you could still see many tourists enjoying the sun on the beaches of the Côte d’Azur, as tankers regularly approached to fill their tanks at sea before returning to the nearby smoky hills.

The hot and arid southeast of France, which regularly experiences wildfires in the summer, had been relatively spared so far this year.

According to the Prometheus database on forest fires in the Mediterranean region, the total area burned in France in the four affected regions was 2,336 hectares in 2021, compared to 7,698 in all of 2020.

Last year, a fire devastated 1,000 hectares in a popular tourist region west of Marseille. At least 2,700 people, including many tourists, had to be evacuated, some by sea.

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