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Is it safe to travel to France? Final advice in the midst of fires near St Tropez

After destruction in Greece and Turkey, the French Mediterranean coast is the latest vacation hotspot to suffer from deadly forest fires this summer.

Yesterday, vacationers in the hills above Saint-Tropez were forced to evacuate crowded campsites as 10,000 people were displaced from the path of a devastating forest fire.

At least seven campsites in the Var have been evacuated, with one site in the village of Grimaud completely razed.

The charred remains of burnt mobile homes were left strewn across the site, with authorities ordering holidaymakers to stay away.

At least one death has been reported after the discovery of the body of a man in his fifties in his house in Grimaud. There are also fears of the death of a 32-year-old woman, with relatives saying the last time they spoke to her was by phone on Monday evening, when she told them she was surrounded by flames.

Since Monday evening, 22 victims have been treated for minor injuries including smoke inhalation, according to local authorities.

Extreme heat waves, made worse by the climate emergency, hit the French Mediterranean coast this week, as firefighters were hampered by high winds as they attempted to repel the flames that raged over more than 5 000 hectares in the Var alone.

A French government spokesperson expressed “solidarity” with the evacuees, adding that “global warming obviously has a responsibility in this situation”

Where are the fires now?

Since Wednesday August 18, firefighters have been fighting two large fires in the south of France and three smaller outbreaks.

The first is located in the town of Bizanet, east of the city of Carcassonne in the department of Aude in the Occitanie region. More than 450 firefighters are fighting against several fires that broke out there yesterday. Four firefighters were injured, including one seriously, as they tried to put out the flames which now cover 90 hectares near the Roman port city of Narbonne.

A second fire is still raging out of control in the town of Gonfaron in the Var department, 30 kilometers west of Saint Tropez but further than yesterday’s deadly fire which was brought under control. More than 1,000 firefighters are currently fighting the blaze there.

Three new outbreaks were also reported this afternoon in Occitania. One in the town of Villeveyrac south of Montpellier, another in the neighboring town of Alms in the middle of a pine forest, and a third in Nissan-Lez-Enserune near the town of Béziers.

Almost all of the south of France is under a “light” level 1 fire risk, including the entire Mediterranean coast, extending inland to the outskirts of Toulouse.

The warning is also in effect for the popular Dordogne Valley holiday region, alongside France’s southernmost Atlantic coastal departments, Gironde (which includes Bordeaux) and Landes, near Biarritz. .

Where were the fires contained?

The fire in the town of Grimaud, on the heights of St Tropez, is still smoldering but would now be brought under control. However, those evacuated were ordered not to return to their homes, vacation rentals or campsites.

A fire at La Vignette beach on the peninsula on the edge of the seaside town of Hyères has been extinguished, after breaking out last night before being extinguished overnight with the help of planes from Canadair firefighting.

A fire in Durban-Corbières, near the still raging Bizanet fire, was brought under control yesterday. Local firefighters closed the city’s municipal swimming pool to allow water bomber helicopters to fly over and take water to put out the flames.

Holidaymakers in the popular coastal region of Occitanie have also encountered problems on the roads today. The busy A9 motorway, which runs along the coast to the Spanish border, was closed until 11 p.m. as firefighters put out a fire in Peyriac-de-Mer just below Narbonne.

What should I know if I travel to the region?

Due to the risk of forest fires, holidaymakers and residents are prohibited from entering mountain forest areas throughout the Var. The only places still open to recreation are the forest reception areas managed by the ZAPEF State. These are located at the Sillans waterfall, the calanque de Port D’Alon and Mont Faron.

And the covid?

France is a much safer place than the UK when it comes to infection rates. Cases have peaked over the past week at less than half the rate in Britain. As of August 16, the total incidence rates of Covid over the past seven days were just 140 per 100,000 in France, compared to 298 per 100,000 in the UK.

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