Hundreds of firefighters, air units battle 'mega' blaze in southern France

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Nearly 900 firefighters backed by aircraft were on Friday battling a massive blaze in France's southern Gard region. At least 600 hectares of woodland have already been lost to the flames.

The operation to control the blaze is continuing, and the fire is "advancing more slowly and fortunately is no longer threatening any homes", a spokesman for the local fire service told the AFP news agency Friday, adding that several fire fronts remained "inaccessible".

Two Milan firefighting planes resumed dumping water on the blaze from early in the morning, the spokesman said.

People in the village of Bordezac and other small settlements in the Bessèges area were evacuated on Thursday evening, with the local prefect's office saying around 100 had to be put up for the night.

Firefighters were drawn from neighbouring regions to battle the flames Thursday, while 12 planes and two helicopters were also deployed.

The Gard region fire service said Friday morning that 13 firefighters were slightly injured.

The fire service said thousands of hectares of heavily wooded land were under threat, as strong winds fanned the flames through the dried-out trees.

Although several other fires broke out in the region on Thursday, most had been extinguished before nightfall.

'Powder keg'

Last month firefighting authorities warned that hot weather would bring a "real powder keg" of conditions that risked setting off forest fires across the country.

Eric Brocardi, spokesman for the National Federation of Fire Fighters of France, told France Info that all indicators pointed to a “summer of dangers” ahead.

A so-called “rule of 30”, he said, was set to bring the cocktail of conditions that firefighters fear most. “That is winds greater than 30km/h, humidity levels below 30 percent and temperatures above 30 degrees,” Brocardi said.

France is already in the midst of a crippling drought, with a spate of departments hit with water shortages and farmers promised government aid to help cushion the industry over the summer months.

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