Thousands evacuated as wildfires tear through southwest France

·2 min read

Wildfires tore through the Gironde region of southwestern France on Wednesday, destroying homes and forcing the evacuation of more than 8,000 residents,

Some people were forced to clamber onto rooftops as the flames got closer to their properties.

More than 6,000 hectares (14,826 acres) were still continuing to burn out of control despite the efforts of firefighters backed by water-bombing aircraft.

France, like the rest of Europe, has been struggling with successive heatwaves this summer as well as its worst drought on record. Dozens of wildfires are ablaze across the country, including at least eight major ones.

Firefighters said more evacuations were likely. Even so, some residents in Hostens, just south of Bordeaux, were reluctant to abandon their homes.

“It’s complicated to go with the dogs and we cannot leave them here,” said Allisson Horan, 18, who stayed behind with her father. “I’m getting worried because the fire is in a plot of land behind ours and the wind is starting to change direction.”

Numerous small roads, and parts of a highway, were closed.

Sweden and Italy are among countries preparing to send help to France, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

He repeated calls for everyone to be responsible – nine out of 10 fires are either deliberately or accidentally caused by people, he said.

The Gironde has already been hit by major wildfires in July, which destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and temporarily forced almost 40,000 people from their homes.

Authorities believe the latest inferno was a result of the previous fires still smouldering in the area’s peaty soil.

The latest Gironde wildfire is one of many that have broken out across Europe this summer, triggered by heatwaves that have baked the continent and brought record temperatures.

In Portugal, nearly 1,200 firefighters backed by eight aircraft have battled a blaze in the mountainous Covilha area some 280 kilometres (174 miles) northeast of Lisbon that has burned more than 3,000 hectares of forest since Saturday.

Spain and Greece have also had to tackle multiple fires over the past few weeks.

Fires are also raging in the southern departments of Lozere and Aveyron. In the Maine et Loire department in western France, more than 1,200 hectares have been destroyed by another fire.