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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 July, 2005, 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK
French firefighters tackle blaze
Firemen fight a fire in Puget-sur-Argens, French Riviera
Forest fires are an annual problem, but this year may be worse
French firefighters are continuing to battle a forest fire that forced the evacuation of thousands of tourists in the south of the country.

The blaze is being brought under control but has already destroyed large areas of woodland near the coastal resort of Saint Raphael.

Officials have voiced fears that arsonists may have caused the blaze.

Forest fires, an annual problem, are expected to be worse this year because of an unusually dry spring and summer.

Emergency services say a strong wind has made the situation more difficult.

At six campsites, the emergency services asked tourists to leave their tents and caravans as a precaution.

But most of those evacuated were able to return by the evening.

"The fire has been checked but it is not entirely under control," fire chief Stephane Farcy told AFP.

The fire forced the temporary closure of a motorway linking Nice to Aix-en-Provence and there were reports that it has reached the perimeter of a military base.

The emergency services say two other forest fires over the weekend elsewhere in southern France have now been brought under control.


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