Weekend winds threaten to fan deadly wildfire on French Riviera

·2-min read

Firefighters battling France's worst wildfire of the summer said Friday the blaze had stopped expanding after five days but that changing winds over the weekend could make it harder to battle the flames.

"We're expecting risky days" ahead, Florent Dossetti of the Var department fire brigade told AFP.

Firefighters said the blaze that killed two people had stopped expanding for the first time since it broke out on Monday, but that it was not extinguished.

They warned that the situation "remains very unstable" in parts of the affected area, with 7,100 hectares of forest already burned.

Flames have ripped through the arid Plaine des Maures nature reserve towards the glitzy Riviera resort of Saint-Tropez.

Around 1,200 firefighters and 250 fire engines have been deployed to tamp down the flames along an 80-kilometre front, with firefighting planes and helicopters also dumping water on the blazes.

Around 10,000 residents and holidaymakers have been evacuated in the area, with only a fraction able to return to campsites late Wednesday while others remained in emergency accommodation.

The prefecture urged evacuees to "above all avoid returning to your home or the place you were holidaying".

Beyond the human impact, local producers of rose wine fear an economic blow from destroyed vines, while an operation to save protected local tortoises has been under way in the Maures nature reserve.

Firefighters have appealed for information about how the fire began, with current theories suggesting it started at a motorway rest stop on Monday.

The fire is the latest in the Mediterranean region that has also seen major blazes claim lives in Greece, Turkey, Italy and Algeria in recent weeks, with numerous officials blaming climate change.

The region has long faced seasonal wildfires linked to the dry and hot summer weather, but climate scientists warn they will become increasingly common because of man-made global warming.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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