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France battles ‘monster’ wildfires as heatwave scorches Europe

France battles 'monster' wildfires as heatwave scorches Europe
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HOSTANCE, France, Aug 11 (Reuters) – A “monster” wildfire raged for a third day in southwestern France on Thursday, destroying forests and forcing 10,000 people to evacuate their homes.

With no lull in scorching temperatures likely ahead of the weekend, firefighters backed by water-bombing aircraft have fought on many fronts, saying the massive blaze could change direction at any moment.

“It’s an ogre, it’s a monster,” Gregory Allion of the French fire service FNSPF told RTL radio.

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Wildfires have raged across Europe this summer as a series of heatwaves bake the continent and bring renewed focus on the risks of climate change to industries and livelihoods. Read more

Valentin Dupi took pictures of his house with his phone “just in case something happened” before being evacuated from Belin-Belliet in the heart of the Gironde region.

“It was like an apocalypse. Smoke everywhere… and plans to throw orange powder on the fire.”

Firefighters said they managed to save his village, transformed into a ghost town after police told residents to evacuate as the fire approached.

But the fire reached the outskirts and left destroyed houses and burnt tractors in its wake.

“We were lucky. Our houses were saved. But you can see the disaster everywhere. Some houses could not be saved,” resident Getan said, pointing to houses burnt to the ground.

‘We are heartbroken’

Support was on the way from across Europe, including 361 firefighters, as well as trucks and waterbombing aircraft, expected to back up the 1,100 French firefighters already on the ground.

“We’re still in the phase of (trying to) confine the fire to where we want it, where there’s less vegetation, where our vehicles can best position themselves … so we can eventually fix it, control it and put it out. . it,” said Mathieu Jomain, a spokesman for the Gironde fire department.

More than 60,000 hectares (230 square miles) have burned in France so far this year, six times the average for the entire year 2006-2021, data from the European Forest Fire Information System show.

French authorities said temperatures in the Gironde region would reach 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on Thursday and remain high until Saturday.

Firefighters warned of an “explosive cocktail” of weather conditions, with wind and tinder-box conditions helping to fan the flames.

Large fires in the Gironde in July destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and forced around 40,000 people from their homes temporarily.

Hostess Major Jean-Louis Dartiel described the past weeks as a disaster.

“The area is completely devastated. We are heartbroken, we are exhausted,” he told Radio Classic. “(This fire) is the final straw.”

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Reporting by Manuel Auslus and Stephen Mahé in Hostence, Laili Faroudi and Michel Rose in Paris, Cristina Thikzar in Madrid and Catarina Demoni in Lisbon; Written by Richard Lough, Michelle Rose, Ingrid Melander; Editing by Jason Neely, Andrew Havens and Alex Richardson

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