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Firefighters tame fierce blazes during four days of wildfires in France

Evacuation of beach at Le Lavandou, French Riviera as plumes of smoke rise from burning wildfires on Wednesday PICTURE: Claude Paris/AP
Thomas Adamson and Nadine Achoui-Lesage

FRENCH firefighters have tamed one of the fiercest blazes to break out during four days of wildfires in the country's southeast Mediterranean coast that led to the evacuation of more than 12,000 people.

The fire in the seaside town of Bormes-Les-Mimosas in the southern Var region calmed on Thursday because of a drop in the wind – but still marked the skyline with dramatic clouds of black smoke that were visible for miles.

"The fire is contained," Frederic Marchi-Leccia of the Var Fire and Emergency Service told reporters on Thursday of the Bormes-les-Mimosas blaze that has forced many to sleep overnight in gyms and sailing clubs.

Despite the progress, authorities fear there will be flare-ups on Thursday afternoon due to lack of moisture and higher winds. Firefighters are still battling blazes in nearby Artigues.

Still, the Var prefecture said fires in some sites in Bormes-les-Mimosas mean it is "not yet possible" for displaced residents and tourists to return to their homes and campsites. An afternoon reconnaissance flight will help authorities determine if it is safe to start sending people home.

In the meantime, evacuees are being housed in makeshift shelters. A sailing club near Bormes-Les-Mimosas was hosting 200 people, including tourists, who were evacuated on Wednesday night.

One displaced French camper, Stephanie Reiny, who slept at the sailing club, was upbeat on learning that the firefighters were making progress. "I will go straight away to the camping site for sure... I'm not scared anymore," she said.

Some 3,000 firefighters have been deployed to contain the flames that broke out on Monday in the south-east of France and on the island of Corsica that have consumed 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres). There have been no reported casualties.

Wildfires also continued to burn in Portugal, where almost 2,000 firefighters were deployed at six major blazes on Thursday. Civil Protection Agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar said continuing strong winds and tinder-dry woodland remain a menace. She said no one has been evacuated, but 37 people have been slightly injured in recent days.

The worst-affected areas continued to be in central Portugal, especially a fire around Serta, 125 miles northeast of Lisbon, which was burning for a fifth day.

One wildfire last month in Portugal killed 64 people.

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