Firefighters battle ferocious wildfire in southwestern France as 8,000 people forced to evacuate

Flames consume trees at a forest fire in Saint Magne, south of Bordeaux, south western France, on Wednesday. Credit: AP

Firefighters were battling a ferocious wildfire in France on Wednesday in a region known for its pine forests, that was already ravaged by flames last month.

The blaze in the southwestern region forced the evacuation of about 8,000 people and destroyed at least 16 houses.

A major highway near the city of Bordeaux was closed on Wednesday afternoon due to the fire raging nearby.

Authorities in Spain's northern Basque Country region said France has stopped freight trucks from crossing the border at Irun due to the fire.

Photos released by firefighters showed flames raging through pine forests, sending clouds of dark grey smoke soaring into the sky.

France is in the midst of its fourth heatwave this year. Credit: AP

More than 60 square kilometres (23 square miles) have burned in the Gironde region and the neighboring Landes in the latest wildfire to erupt in a European nation as the continent swelters through a hot and dry summer.

In total, more than 1,000 firefighters, nine aircraft and two helicopters have been mobilized, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced.

The Gironde region was hit last month by major wildfires that forced the evacuation of more than 39,000 people, including residents and tourists.


ITV Reporter Lorna Shaddick reports on how a historic drought has impacted France amid scorching daytime temperatures


France is in the midst of its fourth heatwave this year and its worst since records began as the country is forced to set up drought crisis teams and limit water use in 93 regions.

National weather agency Meteo France said the heatwave began in the south and is expected to spread across the country and last until the weekend.

Footage captured in the Alpes-De Haute-Provence region showed dry lavender fields, and river gorges with lower water levels than usual.

Overall, the southern half of France expects daytime temperatures of up to 40C and it is expected they will not drop below 20C at night.

Meteo France said this week's heatwave will not be as intense as last month's when several regions experienced record-breaking temperatures.

But the high temperatures come during the most severe drought ever recorded, according to the government. Last month was the driest July since measurements began in 1959.

Some farmers have started to see a drop in production, especially in soy, sunflower and corn yields.

Water restrictions in place range from daytime irrigation bans to limiting water usage to people, livestock and to keep aquatic species alive.

The government said last week that more than 100 municipalities are unable to provide drinking water through taps and need water truck supplies.

Sellians is one such area that now has to have its water brought in by truck.

Residents of the town are now facing harsh restrictions on how much water they can use each day.


Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know


Speaking to Good Morning Britain, mayor of Sellians province Rene Ugo said: "This is the worst it has ever been."

He added: "If things get worse we won't be able to carry on what we are doing now. The solution is to limit consumption to 150 litres per person in the area affected."

Some people in the region didn't initially stick to the rules set out on water consumption and have since been slapped with a flow reducer, forcibly fitted by water firms to limit usage.

The heat also forced energy giant EDF to temporarily cut power generation at some of its nuclear plants which use river water to cool reactors.

How have other European countries been affected by the hot, dry weather?

Parts of the UK have also been hit by water shortages and grass fires ahead of a Met Office amber warning for extreme heat coming into force later this week.

But temperatures are not set to be as extreme as those in July, which smashed records when the thermometer climbed to above 40C in some areas for the first time.

Meanwhile, in Germany, officials have warned water levels on the Rhine River could reach a critically low point in the coming days.

This will make it increasingly difficult to transport goods - including coal and gasoline - as Europe is gripped by an energy crisis.

The river Rhine is pictured with low water in Cologne, Germany on Wednesday. Credit: AP

The weeks of dry weather have turned several of Europe's major waterways into trickles, causing difficulties for German factories and power plants that rely on deliveries by ship and making an economic slowdown likely.

Transporting goods by inland waterways is more important in Germany than in many other Western European countries, according to Capital Economics.

“This is particularly the case for the Rhine, whose nautical bottleneck at Kaub has very low water levels but which remains navigable for ships with small drafts,” said Tim Alexandrin, a spokesman for Germany's Transport Ministry.