4 dead and 1,000s escape in fires: Southern France


Fires whipped by high winds despoiled strips of southern France and Portugal, killing at least four people, burning scores of homes and forcing the migration of thousands, including tourists. Fires in southern France are intimidating the city of Marseille, burning homes and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents.

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A forest watchman was killed on the mainland during the night when one of more than 100 blazes engulfed the caravan he was sleeping in 150 kilometers (95 miles) north of Lisbon.
Many fires formed a column marching toward the Mediterranean port city of Marseille, yesterday, In France.  Hundreds of miles away, a fire awash during the night into Funchal, the capital of Portugal’s Madeira Islands. Killing three aged people and leaving more than 300 with minor burns and smoke inhalation. Two people were reported injured, one seriously, as the fire in southern France moved toward Marseille, firefighters said, and 20 to 25 homes were burned. At least 2,700 hectares (6,670 acres) of land were confounded.
Four firefighters were injured, three seriously, battling a separate blaze in the nearby Herault region – brought under control like a fire in an industrial area outside Marseille that stocks oil and petrochemicals.
The Marseille airport deflected incoming flights to make way for firefighting aircraft, while officials in Marseille, France’s second-largest city, were bracing for flames that risked lapping at its doors, and the airport warned flights risk delays or cancellations today.
Thick layers of ochre-colored smoke dimmed the afternoon skies of sun-drenched Marseille, while black plumes rose above Vitrolles and Pennes-Mirabeau. Firefighting aircraft were restarting duty at daybreak, while the battle continued on the ground.
Firefighters in both countries battled multiple blazes fanned by high winds and federal by brush in a hot, dry summer, considered fire season in both countries. A full 186 wildfires were counted yesterday on Portugal’s mainland.
But the blazes were exceptionally powerful in both countries, roaring through Madeira and southern France at the height of the tourist season – a mainstay of the economy of Madeira Islands, off northwest Africa.
Portugal’s National Civil Protection Service reported 14 major wildfires burning out of control in mainland Portugal where almost 4,500 firefighters were in action in a massive operation, supported by 28 water-dumping aircraft and 1,300 vehicles. Desperate, the government requested help from other European Union countries.

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