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Last Updated: Friday, 18 July, 2003, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
French forest fires 'under control'
By Caroline Wyatt
BBC correspondent in Paris

Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes, hotels and campsites overnight to avoid forest fires in the south of France.

About 9000 hectares (22,240 acres) of forest were destroyed, though firefighters say most of the blazes are now under control.

Residents and tourists leaving Vidauban, in the Var region of southern France
Strong winds fanned the blaze across woods and scrubland
The fires took hold rapidly in the forests of one of France's most popular holiday destinations - around Saint Raphael in the Var region.

Tourists and residents watched in horror as strong winds fanned the blaze across mountain woods and scrubland.

Weeks of unusually hot weather had put fire wardens on alert, and the fire services quickly went into action.

They brought in planes and helicopters to drop water and sand on the fires, which they say are the biggest in the region for 15 years.

But dozens of cars, along with some homes and farmhouses, were destroyed before firefighters could douse the flames.

The blaze also spread to neighbouring regions and along the coast.

Storms

Many people were forced to spend the night taking shelter in public buildings, safely away from the fires.

Most were tourists who had been at campsites in wooded areas.

The forest fires in the south of France follow violent storms in the south-west earlier this week, after the heat-wave broke.

But weather forecasters are predicting another hot weekend for much of the country, leaving French firefighters in the south on high alert.




SEE ALSO:
Killer storms lash France
16 Jul 03  |  Europe
Country profile: France
08 Jul 03  |  Country profiles



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