Despite the deployment of almost 1,700 firefighters, the forest fires on the French Atlantic coast are not yet under control. Around the famous Dune du Pilat, the flames are also destroying livelihoods.
Dramatic scenes are still taking place around the Dune du Pilat on the French Atlantic coast. According to the authorities, the forest fires around the highest shifting dune in Europe have burned down “90 percent” of five campsites. 6,000 vacationers had already been evacuated from there in the past week. The regional newspaper “Sud Ouest” describes the situation of yesterday’s Monday as follows: After the request to evacuate Le Pyla because of the smoke and the approaching fire, a long line of cars started to move. “The smoke was really starting to get uncomfortable,” a vacationer named Yves told the newspaper. He found out about the evacuation order from a neighbor.
An employee of a hotel in Pyla finds it “incredible what is happening here,” he said, according to the newspaper, criticizing the speed of the evacuation. “I think we’re going to be stuck for hours and I don’t see why it can’t be done any faster.”
16,000 people evacuated from forest fires
Almost 1,700 firefighters from across France were deployed to fight two major fires near Bordeaux that destroyed around 17,000 hectares of forest, according to authorities on Monday evening. Around 16,000 people had to be brought to safety in the surrounding areas on Monday. A man was arrested on suspicion of arson in connection with one of the two fires.
According to Sud Ouest, a series of explosions was also heard near the dune. “A few minutes later, it becomes clear that they came from the gas bottles of the campsites that are on fire,” writes the newspaper. The wind blew at up to 80 km/h and drove the fire towards the dunes. Fire engines were lined up in the parking lot of the tourist attraction. In the afternoon, the fire brigade started clearing trees in the parking lot with a bulldozer to create a path against the fire.
As “Sud Ouest” reports, another 1,800 hectares of forest fell victim to the flames at La Teste on Tuesday night, and 800 at Landiras.
Campsite destroyed by ex-soccer player
The French ex-soccer player Mathieu Valbuena was a co-owner of one of the destroyed campsites at the Dune du Pilat. In an interview with “Le Parisien”, he describes his emotional state: “These are terrible pictures and it is very sad to see these hectares and hectares of forest go up in smoke. But it is that people are safe. In view of the destruction of his campsite he felt a great sadness.” It is very difficult for me to realize that today he is no longer there. I never imagined it would come to this,” Valbuena told the Paris daily. “It hurts…”
Despite his loss, Valbuena pays tribute to the firefighters: “They are putting their lives at risk as the fire continues to spread and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart and tell them that we have their back.” He is cautiously optimistic that he will be able to rebuild the campsite: “The time will come to reposition ourselves. And we hope that the French will continue to come in large numbers because we have a very beautiful region.”
However, the fires between Bordeaux and the Atlantic must first be brought under control.
Sources: “Sudouest.fr” on the situation on Monday, “Sudouest.fr” on the situation on Tuesday, “Le Parisien” interview with Valbuena, DPA.