French authorities are close to containing one of the fiercest blazes to break out during four days of wildfires in the country’s southeast that have led to the evacuation of more than 12,000 people.
The fires in Bormes-les-Mimosas calmed Thursday morning because of a drop in winds – but they continue to mark the Var region skyline with dramatic smoke clouds. Firefighters were also battling blazes in nearby Artigues.
“It’s the most complicated, the most trying stage,” said Frederic Marchi-Leccia of the Var fire service Thursday. He said he expected flareups Thursday afternoon due to lack of moisture and a pickup in the wind.
The Var prefecture said that the continuing flames in certain sites in Bormes-les-Mimosas mean it is “not yet possible to return to evacuated sites” for displaced residents and tourists.
In the meantime, they are being provided refuge by the civil protection authority in makeshift shelters.
A sailing club near Bormes-Les-Mimosas was used as a shelter for some 200 people, including tourists, who were evacuated Wednesday night.
One displaced French camper, Stephanie Reiny, who slept at the sailing club Wednesday night was upbeat on learning that the fire services were making progress in containing the fires.
“I will go straight away to the camping site for sure. … I’m not scared anymore,” she said.
Three thousand firefighters have been deployed to contain the flames that broke out Monday in the southeast of France and Corsica and have consumed 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) of vegetation.
There have been no reported casualties in France.
Fires continue elsewhere in Europe.
In Portugal, almost 2,000 firefighters were deployed at six major blazes Thursday.
Officials said that they don’t expect a forecast slight drop in temperatures to help extinguish the spate of summer wildfires.
Portugal’s Civil Protection Agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar said continuing strong winds and tinder-dry woodland remain a menace.
The worst-affected areas continued to be in the central region of the country, especially a fire around Serta, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Lisbon, is was burning for a fifth day.
Adamson reported from Paris. Barry Hatton in Lisbon contributed to this report
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