In southern France, a large contingent of firefighters is fighting a fire that has led to the precautionary evacuation of several campsites with around 3,000 tourists. In the Pyrénées-Orientales department, countless trees and bushes were on fire. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced that a fire of great intensity was underway there. He called on residents and holidaymakers to be extremely vigilant. The fire brigade was deployed with 13 planes, 3 helicopters and more than 500 firefighters.
The fire broke out in the afternoon between Saint-André and the well-known seaside resort of Argelès-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean. The scene of the fire is west of the city of Perpignan, not far from the Spanish border. There are no larger contiguous forest areas locally.
The fight against the flames continues, said Environment Minister Christophe Béchu late in the evening. So far, four campsites with almost 3,000 vacationers have been evacuated. The fire brigade mobilize numerous means on land and from the air to get the flames under control. The drought and strong winds increased the risk of the fire spreading.
Mayor describes situation as "catastrophic"
As Prefect Rodrigue Furcy said in the evening, 480 hectares of natural areas have already gone up in flames. The fire is not yet under control, but the situation is beginning to improve. The hope is to limit the flames to an area where they do not threaten residential buildings. A river course can help as a natural barrier for the fire. The wind is driving the flames away from Argelès-sur-Mer at the moment. The firefighting operation will continue throughout the night.
"It's a catastrophic situation," Saint-André Mayor Samuel Moli told France Bleu. "We're facing a fire like we've never seen before," he said. "Our community has been badly affected and there is a lot of damage." Houses and a supermarket were evacuated. A gymnasium and a large multi-purpose hall were opened to accommodate the evacuees.