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900 firefighters battle massive fire in France

PARIS (AP) – Hundred of firefighters backed by water-dropping planes battled a large forest fire on Friday in southeastern France that has forced the evacuation of nearby villages.

Thirteen firefighters have been injured in Bordezac – the village where the fire started.

Overall, 18 firefighters have been injured amid several forest fires that have burned for days in the region, according to France Info.

Unfavourable weather – drought, heat and strong winds – are complicating efforts to contain the blaze in the Gard region but its fire service said prospects were “more favourable” on Friday. Other smaller fires have been extinguished.

The service said 880 hectares have burnt so far in two different sites. More than 900 firefighters and two planes fought the flames in the region.

Near the Bordezac fire, villages were evacuated and roads closed. Laurent Joseph, a top official in the neighbouring Bouches-du-Rhone region, told BFM TV that authorities expect to deal with the fire “for several days”. The fire threaten the Cévennes, a mountainous region partially protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site that crosses a large section of southeast France.

The regional administration or prefecture on Friday banned people from entering several forests in the area until tomorrow, “to reduce the risk of new fires starting” while firefighters work to extinguish those still ablaze. France’s national meteorological service put several neighbouring areas on red alert on Friday for fire risks and France’s Environment Ministry warned citizens in the area to pay careful attention to fire risks.

Wildfires have also hit other countries in Europe this summer, from Greece to Portugal. Scientists said climate change brings more drought and higher temperatures that make it easy for fires to start and spread.

Firemen fighting a bushfire near Bordezac, in southern France. PHOTO: AP