As winds die down, hope grows for French firefighters battling the Riviera fire

World

A fire that has devastated forests near the French Riviera for four days is slowing as winds and warm weather subside, but more than 1,100 firefighters were still struggling to control it Thursday, local authorities said.

It was the last of many forest fires that swept through the Mediterranean region this summer. The French fire left two dead and 27 injured, and forced at least 10,000 to evacuate camps, hotels and homes across the region.

The fire is “less violent and its progression has slowed down,” the administration of the surrounding Var region said in a statement on Thursday. Strong winds from the Mediterranean had fanned the flames, but now they are calming down and temperatures are dropping.

“We can be optimistic,” the head of the regional fire service, Dominique Lain, told France-Info broadcaster.

The fire has already burned 18,000 acres (7,100 hectares) of forest since it started Monday about 24 miles (40 kilometers) inland from the coastal town of Saint-Tropez.

In the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, huge water bombers could be seen swooping down to fill their stomachs with water and pour it into the burning field of the Riviera. Reinforcements to give firefighters on the ground regular breaks came from other parts of France.

This summer’s wildfires have left areas in Greece, Turkey, Italy, Algeria and Spain in smoking ruins. In Greece on Thursday, hundreds of Greek and Polish firefighters were fighting a large forest fire that decimated a pine forest for a fourth day northwest of the Greek capital.

The fire near the town of Vilia, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Athens, has already devastated thousands of hectares and prompted evacuation orders for several towns in the area. Strong winds forecast for later in the day could complicate firefighting efforts.

Scientists say there is little doubt that climate change brought on by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is causing extreme events such as heat waves, droughts and wildfires.

(AP)

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