The Latest: Fire evacuations lifted in southern France
Jul. 27, 2017
BORMES-LES-MIMOSAS, France (AP) — The Latest on the wildfires blazing in France and elsewhere in Europe (all times local):
Firefighters have contained one of the largest fires in southern France and authorities have cleared thousands of evacuees to return to their homes and campsites.
The prefect of the Var region said on Thursday that the departures would be staggered to avoid chaotic traffic. As many as 12,000 people were evacuated — at least 3,000 of them campers.
Many of the evacuated tourists and residents had been staying in gymnasiums, a sailing club and other makeshift shelters in Bormes-Les-Mimosas, La Londe-Les-Maures and La Lavandou.
Nearly 540 firefighters still are trying to extinguish the blaze that tore through 1,600 hectares of the tourist-heavy region.
Another wildfire that has burned through 1,700 hectares remained out of control around the back-country village of Artigue, site of Medieval vestiges.
Portugal's Civil Protection Agency says firefighters have brought under control a major 5-day-old wildfire that blackened a wide area of pine and eucalyptus forest.
The blaze at Serta, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Lisbon, is believed to have charred more than 25,000 hectares of woodland.
Other fires broke out Thursday, however, amid continuing hot and windy weather. The Weather Institute says more than 70 percent of Portugal is experiencing severe drought conditions.
The Civil Protection Agency reports it has deployed more than 1,100 firefighters and 23 water-dropping aircraft to 13 blazes.
At the same time, just over 2,000 firefighters are engaged in mopping-up operations and are on the lookout for re-ignitions.
Officials in Portugal say they don't expect a forecast drop in temperatures to help extinguish a spate of summer wildfires.
Civil Protection Agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar says continuing strong winds and tinder-dry woodland remain a menace.
Almost 2,000 firefighters were deployed at six major blazes across Portugal Thursday. 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, which was burning for a fifth day.
A Canadair water-dropping plane from Morocco joined four others from Spain, and authorities were assessing where best to deploy them.
Gaspar said there were "no critical situations" requiring evacuations. She said 37 people have been slightly injured in recent days.
A wildfire last month in central Portugal killed 64 people in one night.
French authorities say they are near to bringing under control one of the fiercest blazes in France's four days of wildfires.
The fires in Bormes-les-Mimosas in the Var region that caused the evacuation of more than 12,000 people calmed Thursday morning because of a drop in winds.
But authorities, who are also battling fires in nearby Artigues, expect flareups due to lack of moisture and a pickup in wind.
The civil protection authority is providing refuge for the displaced. A sailing club near Bormes-Les-Mimosas has sheltered 200 people, including tourists.
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.