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  1. ITV Report

British tourists among 12,000 fleeing raging French Riviera fires

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rupert Evelyn

Holidaymakers in the French Riviera were among 12,000 people forced to evacuate as forest fires raged through the picturesque Provence region.

British tourists were part of a crowd of more than 3,000 people forced to take shelter at a beach near the popular south coast resort of Saint-Tropez after a campsite was cleared overnight.

A fire-fighting aircraft, four tracker planes and more than 1,000 firefighters were sent to the region to tackle the violent blaze which spread to up to 4,000 hectares (9,880 acres) in 30C temperatures.

About 250 trailer homes, a hangar, an atelier and several vehicles were burned but no one has so far been injured, according to the prefect of the Var region.

Fires have been ongoing around France's Mediterranean coast for three days, leaving large swathes of Mediterranean forest bare and blackened.

The latest forest fire cause Toulon airport to briefly close on Wednesday.

Holidaymakers watched as planes tackled the smoking hillside near the popular resort of Saint-Tropez. Credit: AP

The wildfires began raging along France's Mediterranean coast on Monday, forcing smaller, scattered evacuations with flames reaching a corner of Saint-Tropez.

Since Tuesday afternoon, French firefighters have conducted about 100 operations.

The latest fire sparked just before 11pm local time on Tuesday, a day after other blazes were seen across Europe, and quickly spread to three towns - La Londe, Bormes and La Lavandou - in the Var area.

Credit: AP

British actress Dame Joan Collins was among those evacuated from her home.

The Dynasty star tweeted: "Luckily we were able to evacuate last night, not easy with 11 people in the house! We are all okay."

She later posted a picture of a blaze saying: "Being in the middle of this was a bit of a nightmare."

Credit: AP

Lisa Minot, travel editor of The Sun, was among those forced to flee the campsite at 2am during her family holiday.

"It was pretty traumatic," she told ITV's Good Morning Britain.

"The fires have been going all night, our campsite has its own beach and at two o'clock this morning they evacuated everybody," she said.

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"There are about 1,000 pitches in the campsite, they evacuated everyone down to the beach and we have been here ever since.

"There are very strong winds ... and this is what is hampering the efforts to fight the fire, because they really cannot predict where the flames are going to go next."

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Ms Minot said campers had been told they could not return to collect belongings until firefighters had the blaze under control.

The fire is the latest blaze to sweep across tinder dry southern France which is experiencing an exceptionally hot summer.

Hundreds of firefighters are battling blazes fanned by high winds in more than a dozen zones in the Riviera region. Credit: AP

A fire official said as the fire spread it entered populations swelling with tourists.

"The evacuations, at least 10,000, followed the progression of the fire," the official said.

"It's an area that doubles or triples its population in summer."

Fires began sweeping along the Mediterranean coast on Monday, forcing smaller evacuations in the mountainous interior and on the island of Corsica, as blazes were seen in Portugal, Italy and Croatia.

A firefighting plane drops fire retardant over a forest near La Londe-les-Maures on the French Riviera. Credit: AP
The forest fires struck the French island of Corsica on Monday. Credit: AP