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New wildfire in southern France prompts evacuation of thousands

At least 10,000 people were evacuated overnight after a new wildfire broke out in southern France, which was already battling massive blazes that have consumed swathes of forest, authorities said Wednesday.

The new fire came a day after France asked for Europe’s help to tackle the flames already raging in the tinder dry south, including near the popular resort of Saint-Tropez.

“The evacuations, at least 10,000, followed the progression of the fire. It’s an area that doubles or triples its population in summer,” said a fire service official of the blaze near Bormes-les-Mimosas on the Mediterranean coast.

The number of people on France’s Cote d’Azur bulges in July and August as holidaymakers head to the beach, though the area is experiencing an exceptionally hot, dry summer that has made it especially vulnerable to fires.

A picture taken on July 25, 2017 shows smoke rising from a fire in Biguglia, on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. (By AFP)

On Tuesday, over 4,000 firefighters and troops backed by 19 water bombers had already been mobilized to extinguish the flames, which have left swathes of charred earth in their wake.

At least 12 firefighters have been injured and 15 police officers affected by smoke inhalation since the fires broke out on Monday, according to the authorities.

The blazes on Tuesday had devoured around 4,000 hectares of land along the Mediterranean coast, in the mountainous interior and on the island of Corsica.

With strong winds and dry brush creating a dangerous mix, the government asked its European Union partners to send two extra fire-fighting planes — a request immediately fulfilled by Italy, according to the EU.

But one union official denounced what he said was a lack of spare parts preventing all the aircraft required from being put into action.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb announced on Tuesday that France would be adding six more firefighting planes to its fleet during a visit to Corsica.

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