Hundreds of French firefighters battled for a third day on Wednesday to contain a raging wildfire near the Mediterranean resort of Saint-Tropez that has killed two people and forced thousands to flee.
More than 20 people were also left suffering from smoke inhalation or minor injuries by the fire, which first broke out on Monday and tore through the Plaine des Maures nature reserve in the south of France.
The blaze is believed to have started near a motorway that runs through the reserve, northwest of Saint-Tropez. By Tuesday morning it had consumed 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) of forest.
On Wednesday, a government official for the Var region confirmed that the fire had still not been contained.
Local authorities said in a statement that one person had died – the first confirmed fatality from the wildfire. The statement did not give the person’s identity or say how they had died. Later, authorities confirmed a second person had died.
Thousands of residents and holidaymakers were forced to evacuate as more than 900 firefighters worked to contain the blaze, backed by water-dumping planes and helicopters.
Some 1,300 people staying at a campsite in the village of Bormes-les-Mimosas, near Saint-Tropez, were evacuated, as were 12 other campsites.
Evacuations have also taken place in the villages of Le Mole and Grimaud, while Gonafron and La Croix-Valmer were also hit.
Thomas Dombry, mayor of La Garde-Freinet village, told reporters: “We’ve never seen it spread with such speed, it was three or four times the usual.”
French president Emmanuel Macron left his nearby summer retreat on Tuesday to thank the firefighters for their efforts.
“The worst has been avoided; we must remain humble in the face of these events,” he said. “Climate disturbances will lead to more such fires.” He added that France had been less badly affected than some other countries in southern Europe.