Wildfires lay waste to hillsides along French Riviera

Firefighters try to douse the flames in Biguglia on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica

A fire in the Luberon region was contained yesterday.

The fires have been raging for weeks, causing periodic evacuations and devastating large areas of forest and pasture.

Numerous 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. Hundreds of reinforcements were sent in from around France but the president of the Provence-Alpes-Cotes d'Azur area, Renaud Muselier, said on BFM-TV that "we don't have enough means".

More than 12,000 evacuated residents and tourists in the south of France were told they could return to their homes and holiday places after firefighters tamed one of the fiercest blazes to break out during four days of wildfires.

Wildfires tearing through a dry Mediterranean forest have prompted authorities to evacuate some 12,000 people from three popular tourist destinations in the Var region of the French Riviera.

Marion Manent, whose husband's trailer homes were burned, was suspicious about the origins of the fire around La Londe.

The Civil Protection Agency reports it has deployed more than 1,100 firefighters and 23 water-dropping aircraft to 13 blazes.

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The airport in Toulon, a city 18 miles from La Londe, was briefly closed on Wednesday, as well the Fort de Bregancon, which sits on a rock off the coast of Bormes.

Almost 540 firefighters still are trying to extinguish the blaze that tore through 1,600 hectares of the tourist-heavy region.

Further east, another 400 firefighters were battling a blaze in Artigues that burned up to 4,200 acres of forest.

The fires first broke out Monday and left eight firefighters and 15 police officers injured. The flames are being driven by powerful winds across steep hillsides of dense pine and eucalyptus forest Wednesday. Last month, 64 people died in a wildfire.

Firefighting planes continue to douse the area with tons of water and thousands of firefighters were called upon to control the flames. "It's a lifetime's effort from local people that is destroyed", Arizzi said.

More than 70 percent of Portugal is enduring a severe drought.

The worst-affected areas continued to be in central Portugal, especially a fire around Serta, 125 miles northeast of Lisbon, which was burning for a fifth day.

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