Wildfires ravaged the Gironde region of southwestern France on Wednesday, destroying homes and forcing the evacuation of 10,000 residents, some of whom climbed onto rooftops as the flames approached.
Black and orange skies, darkened by smoke rising from forests and lit by flames, were seen across the area as the fires continued to burn despite the efforts of firefighters supported by aircraft.
The fires, which affected approximately 6,200 hectares, have now passed into the neighboring Landes region, writes Reuters.
France, like the rest of Europe, has faced back-to-back heat waves and the worst drought on record this summer. Dozens of wildfires are burning across the country, including at least eight major fires.
Firefighters said more evacuations are likely
“Prepare your documents, the animals you can take with you, some belongings,” the Gironde municipality of Belin-Beliet said on Facebook, before evacuating parts of the town.
In the nearby village of Hostens, police had earlier gone door-to-door telling residents to leave as the fire advanced. Camille Delay fled with her partner and son, taking her two cats, chickens and home insurance papers.
Firefighters said more evacuations are likely. Even so, some Hostens residents were reluctant to abandon their homes.
Numerous small roads and a highway were closed.
More than 57,200 hectares were engulfed in flames
More than 57,200 hectares have been engulfed in flames so far in France this year, almost six times the annual average for the period 2006-2021, data from the European Forest Fire Information System show.
Sweden and Italy are among the countries preparing to send aid to France, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.
He repeated the calls for responsibility on the part of everyone – nine out of 10 fires are caused either voluntarily or unintentionally by people, he said.
The Gironde fire is one of several fires that have broken out in Europe this summer, triggered by heat waves.
The Gironde was hit by major wildfires in July
In Portugal, nearly 1,200 firefighters supported by eight aircraft battled a blaze in the mountainous Covilha area, about 280 km northeast of Lisbon, which has burned more than 3,000 hectares of forest since Saturday.
Spain and Greece have also had to deal with more fires in recent weeks.
The Gironde was hit by major fires in July, which destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and temporarily forced nearly 40,000 people from their homes.
Fires also wreaked havoc in the southern departments of Lozere and Aveyron. In the department of Maine et Loire in western France, more than 1,200 hectares were scorched by another fire.