French wildfires: situation stabilising but evacuees cannot return

The Gironde prefecture has said that the fires are now judged to be ‘contained’ but that not all the safety requirements have been met to allow people to return

People evacuated from the fires in Gironde cannot return home yet, the prefect has said. Photo for illustration only
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“Even if the situation appears to be stabilising, not all of the safety criteria which would enable evacuated people to return have been satisfied,” Gironde’s prefecture has said today (July 21), as two wildfires continue to rage in the department.

Read more: People in Ile-de-France can smell smoke of Gironde fires 500kms away

The only exception will be some people from near La Teste-de-Buch, where it is now judged to be safe.

In all, 36,750 people have been evacuated from the area around the blazes in La Teste-de-Buch near the Dune du Pilat and Landiras to the south of Bordeaux.

The prefecture added that the situation will be “re-evaluated on a daily basis”, as firefighters get close to bringing the fires under control.

Neither fire made a significant amount of progress last night (July 20), although “some resurgences” were dealt with by firefighters.

However, Gironde’s prefect Fabienne Buccio said that while “things are getting better,” the “battle against the fire is not over”.

The director of the department’s Service départemental d’incendie et de secours, Marc Vermeulen, said that there are now “no visible flames, but there remains some activity,” with some fires springing up and smoke continuing to rise around the village of Cazaux.

A total of 20,800 hectares has been destroyed by the fires: 7,000 near La Teste-de-Buch and 13,800 near Landiras, including 200 last night. However, both are now judged to be “contained,” the prefecture has said.

During a visit to the scene yesterday, President Emmanuel Macron described the 2,000 firefighters from across the country who have been tackling the flames as “absolute heroes”, expressing “the gratitude of the whole nation” for their work against “one of the greatest fires in our history”.

EU sees more land burnt this year than in 2021

So far this year, the fires which have been burning in EU countries have covered a greater area than those which occurred in the whole of 2021.

A total of 517,881 hectares has been destroyed since the beginning of this year (as of July 16), equating to 5,000km², which is the size of the department of Mayenne, or the whole of Trinidad of Tobago.

In 2021, meanwhile, the total area burnt was 470,359 hectares, according to figures from the Système européen d’information sur les feux de forêt.

Parrots and monkeys among dead zoo animals

Several species of parrot, an otter, a penguin, two capuchin monkeys and an orangutan were some of the 14 animals which died while being evacuated from the zoo near La Teste-de-Buch on Monday (July 18).

Zoo handlers said that the creatures died as a result of the “heat” and the “stress” of the operation.

“The evacuation and the transportation of animals of this type of extreme situation represents a very significant danger to them, and the teams on the ground worked day and night to save as many as possible,” the zoo stated.

The zoo has around 900 animals under its charge, 370 of which were taken to a zoo in Bordeaux. Many of the others stayed in La Teste-de-Buch, because it would have been too complicated to transport them.

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