Some 1,200 people including many tourists staying in campsites on the Mediterranean coast near Marseille were evacuated Tuesday evening, fleeing a violent fire against which firefighters are preparing “a difficult fight all night.”
Tourists from several campsites had to be gathered on the beaches of the Blue Coast, west of Marseille, then evacuated by sea, to the fishing port of Carro, before being transported by bus to gymnasiums in Martigues where they will spend the night, firefighters said.
The evacuations concern “1,200 people,” the prefect of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region Pierre Dartout told AFP.
“We expect a tough fight all night long,” a spokeswoman for the Bouches-du-Rhône fire department told AFP, as the fire continued to progress rapidly.
The fire that broke out in the afternoon in the middle of the forest had already devastated 800 hectares of vegetation around 10 p.m.
An AFP journalist present at La Couronne by the sea saw huge plumes of black smoke and flames along the roadside. Water bombers have succeeded each other in an attempt to extinguish the flames and slow their progress.
The fire traveled eight kilometers in two hours, said the Departmental Fire and Rescue Service (Sdis) of Bouches-du-Rhône on Twitter.
The roads in this area have been closed to traffic.
More than 1,200 firefighters were still fighting against the flames around midnight in this sector near the coastal towns of Carry-le-Rouet and Sausset-les-Pins, while the wind was not weakening, with squalls of up to 90km / h. At the height of the intervention, the firefighters were reinforced by very significant air resources: seven Canadairs, two Dash, water bomber helicopters and Pelican civil security planes.
The fire does not threaten industrial facilities in the Fos-sur-mer area, however, Pierre Dartout assured AFP in the early evening.
– reception centers –
“We were in Martigues to go shopping but now we can no longer go home to La Couronne. We tried to go by the coast, but all the roads are cut, it burns everywhere it’s terrible. We are very worried. because my father, who is old, stayed at La Couronne and it’s hard not to know what’s going on, “Mylène Greffeuille testified by telephone to AFP.
In the evening, the town hall of Martigues, which carried out the evacuation of a district, announced the opening of three centers to accommodate people leaving areas threatened by the flames.
An AFP journalist also noted, in Sausset-les-Pins, a town bordering Martigues, that several hundred people, tourists and residents, were welcomed in a gymnasium with camp beds and food.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who had come to visit the firefighters in the area on Tuesday morning, was expected in Martigues around midnight, according to the firefighters.
From 6:00 p.m., a portion of the A55 motorway between Marseille and Martigues was closed.
Since the weekend, access to all the forest areas of Bouches-du-Rhône has been prohibited due to strong winds and high temperatures which increase the risk of fires.
Between 2015 and 2019, 9,300 ha of forest burned on average each year in the departments of the Mediterranean coast.
cf-iw-cs-jp / ob