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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July, 2003, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Your tales of fire 'apocalypse'
fire
Fires have destroyed lives, property and belongings
The fires in the south of France have been described as "an apocalypse" by some of the many eyewitnesses who have emailed their stories to BBC News Online.

Hundreds of local people and holidaymakers in the disaster area have sent us dramatic details of their close encounters with the raging fires.

Anne Marie Huet, in the area of La Bouverie, Roquebrune-sur-Argens, said Tuesday night was one of the most frightening of her life.

"We could see the flames advancing towards our home, there were three different fires that we could see burning all around our area.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The car filled with smoke even with the windows closed
Gordon Roberts, UK

"Smoke from all the fires joined together and the sky was just smoke. A moment came when the police began asking people to prepare to evacuate, prepare papers, put cars in the front of homes and prepare to go.

"Around 1930GMT the sky became orange, the smell was too much, ashes falling into gardens and onto roof tops.

"Hosing down the outside of homes and gardens was an experience which I hope to never have again."

Evacuation

Joanna Heisse said her step-father, a doctor in Sainte-Maxime, got an emergency call to help in the town centre.

"Having helped in many forest fires in the past, he chose to describe this one as an 'apocalypse', which I take as his word that this is a terrible event," she said.

The smoke cloud was immense. You would have thought a bomb had gone off
Dawn, UK
"Firefighters will be fighting it all night and from what I can tell, Italian reinforcements have started to arrive and some help from the French army is on its way."

Ian McCulloch, from the UK, was evacuated from his villa in Les Issambres in the Var region.

"The sky had been darkening with thick smoke during the afternoon. At around 1700GMT the police arrived to inform us that we should prepare to leave if the fires got worse. About 30 minutes later they returned and advised us to leave. We left with kids, passports, money and insurance.

"The fire service in Sainte-Maxime told us it was safe to return at 2300hrs. It was obvious it was far from safe - the night sky was glowing orange and there was ash dropping from the sky."

Mr McCulloch said his group moved back down the hill to the sanctuary of a car park by the beach where hundreds of others had gathered.

Campsite
Holidaymakers were evacuated from campsites as fire approached
Gavin, from Grasse, said there were huge smoke clouds above Frejus and Sainte-Maxime when the fires are burning.

"They look like enormous thunderclouds and some of the fires seem to go on for days. There are also some smaller fires breaking out in populated areas all over the Riviera - we've had four here in Grasse in the past week.

"Occasionally we hear announcements on the local radio telling us to keep our garden hoses inside the house as a 'last resort' so we can get out and to leave gates open so the fire brigade can get in if they need to.

"The 'pompiers' are doing a smashing job though (most of them are volunteers as well) - and the water-bombers are just fantastic to watch."

Lucky escape

Dawn, from England, said her family was just leaving Frejus when the fires reached the area.

Map showing worst-hit areas
"We noticed that a lot of people were running through the campsite, too many people were congregating, all staring to the same place. We got out to have a closer look - another fire had broken out.

"The wind direction was blowing it towards St Tropez, and I said at the time, if the wind changes, this campsite would be in trouble. We left, and our route took us along very close to the area on fire, the smoke cloud was immense.

"You would have thought a bomb had gone off. As we cleared a bend in the road, smoke filled the motor lanes, a helicopter hummed above us, and then dropped its load of water - the trees to our left were on fire."

Dawn said she later received a text message from one of her sons' friends to say the campsite had been evacuated and that some of the site had been damaged.

"It's only coming back and seeing the news that shows us how very serious it all had been, and that we were very lucky," she said.


Do you live in the affected areas? Have you been displaced by the fires? If you have any photographs of the fires send them to yourpics@bbc.co.uk.

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SEE ALSO:
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30 Jul 03  |  Europe
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In pictures: French forest fires
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Europe battles forest fires
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