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Rainfall raises hopes for respite from French wildfires

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A forest fire that flared up again in southern France left an additional 1,000 people displaced, while overnight rain brought fires elsewhere in the country under control, officials said on Sunday.

France has been ravaged this summer by a historic drought, a series of heat waves and several forest fires.

A fire that has been raging in the southern region of Aveyron since Monday appeared to be under control and dying out on Saturday afternoon when it suddenly flared up again in a “virulent” fashion, swallowing an additional 500 acres, the prefecture said.

At least 1,000 people were evacuated from the village of Mostuejols near the town of Millau and six nearby hamlets, it said.

Some 3,000 people had already been evacuated because of the fire, but were allowed back when it appeared to be under control. No casualties have been reported so far from the fire, which has consumed a total of 1,260 hectares so far.

A local man was under investigation for accidentally starting the fire when a metal part of his trailer hit the road, firing sparks that ignited the dried vegetation.

To mitigate such risks in eastern France, police said Saturday they were barring access to most of the forests in the Bas-Rhin region near the German border to all but residents.

Meanwhile, in the southwestern Gironde region around Bordeaux, a massive fire that flared up Tuesday was brought under control after rain fell overnight, a senior official said.

The situation “improved considerably during the night,” said Arnaud Mendousse of Gironde Fire and Rescue.

He said between 10 and 30mm of rain had fallen in the region, but on “terrain that is extremely dry”.

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Lower temperatures, rain forecast

“We know this is a reprieve, but not an end to the battle. We know that if it doesn’t rain for the next 48 to 72 hours, the risk will increase significantly.”

Mendousse said the humidity has risen and the temperature has been relatively low at around 25 degrees Celsius, (77 Fahrenheit), adding: “The fire is not completely out and the ground remains extremely hot”.

Meteo France forecast lower temperatures and rain and thunderstorms for most of the country on Sunday.

To the northwest, in the fabled Broceliande forest in the region of Brittany – where King Arthur roamed and where wildfires are normally rare – a fire was contained after overnight rains but remained under surveillance after 400 hectares were destroyed , officials said.

EU members, including Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania, have sent reinforcements to France to help fight fires, and several water bombardments from the European Union’s fleet have also joined the firefighting effort.

(AFP)

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