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Huge fire in south France destroys 250 hectares but now under control

Firefighters are still in place and continue to keep close watch on the flames which required 170 people to be evacuated yesterday. The cause of the incident is not yet known

Fire is seen at a distance in the landscape. Huge fire in south France destroys 250 hectares but now under control

The fire ravaged 250 hectares but more than 800 were saved, as the fire is now under control Pic: Gérald Darmanin / @GDarmanin / Twitter

A fire that has destroyed more than 250 hectares of vegetation in southern France is now under control, authorities have said, with people who had been evacuated now able to return home. 

Fire broke out yesterday (July 3) at around 12:45 in the Clape area near Narbonne-Plage in Aude, Occitanie. Flames destroyed more than 250 hectares of pine trees and surrounding vegetation.

More than 450 firefighters attended the scene at its peak and around 170 people were evacuated from the area, including 140 people from a campsite, and around 30 people from nearby houses.

Six Canadair planes, two Dash aircraft and one helicopter also flew overhead to help put out the flames, but later in the evening these were forced to disperse due to worsening visibility.

Colonel Jean-Luc Beccari, whose team attended the scene, said: “The fire developed very quickly. The wind wasn’t strong, but it changed direction in the middle of the afternoon, which caused complications on the ground.”

Local authorities have since said that the fire is under control, and Mr Beccari confirmed that emergency services were able to save a further 800 hectares from the blaze. 

Everyone evacuated has since been allowed to return home or to their campsite. No injuries or damage to homes have been reported.

Rémi Recio, deputy prefect of Narbonne, told FranceInfo: “The fire is technically not completely out, but it is under control, limited, and under surveillance.”

He said that due to changing weather forecasts the fire was still being carefully watched and controlled, with 250 firefighters still on-site.

He said: “Today (July 4), we are expected north-west wind with gusts of around 60kph, so this requires lots of alertness on our part. A big service is still in place.

“From Sunday morning, we have had aerial support [planes and helicopter] back in place, to fly over the area and establish whether we need more support, which could be sent over today.”

Mayor of Narbonne Didier Mouly has lamented the “ravaged pine trees” and a “completely destroyed landscape”. On Twitter, the prefect of the Aude thanked emergency services for their work.

It is not yet known what started the fire, and if it was accidental or not. An inquiry is underway.

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