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Thousands evacuated from homes as wildfires rage in France

Published: Updated:

A huge wildfire that has destroyed more than a dozen homes and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents, some of whom had clambered onto rooftops as the blaze neared, was sweeping through the Gironde region of southwestern France on Wednesday.

More than 1,000 firefighters backed by water-bombing aircraft were fighting the fire that has razed more than 6,000 hectares and is still burning out of control.

France, like the rest of Europe, is struggling with successive heatwaves and its worst drought on record. Dozens of wildfires are ablaze across the country, including at least four other major ones.

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Camille Delay fled her hometown of Hostens on the orders of emergency services late on Tuesday with her partner and son as a wall of flames drew rapidly closer.

The couple grabbed their two cats, chickens and house insurance documents before taking flight, she said.

“Everyone in the village climbed onto their rooftops to see what was happening - within ten minutes a little twist of smoke became enormous,” the 30-year-old told Reuters by telephone.

The local Gironde authority described the blaze as “rampant.” Firefighters said more evacuations were likely.

The Gironde was hit by major wildfires in July which destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and temporarily forced almost 40,000 people from their homes.

Authorities believe the latest inferno was a result of the previous fires still smoldering in the area’s peaty soil.

Fires were also raging in the southern departments of Lozere and Aveyron. In the Maine et Loire department in western France, more than 1,200 hectares have been scorched by another fire.

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