Europe comes to the aid of France in the face of the new wave of fires | International
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A small army of European firefighters and planes will help France to face a wave of fires that this year has left more than 50,000 hectares burned throughout the territory and has overwhelmed the civil protection services and the authorities. It is likely that many more hectares will have to be added to the final balance. In regions that believed the worst had passed, such as the southwest of the country, the forests have burned again this week, with several simultaneous outbreaks that have forced the evacuation of 10,000 people and temporary traffic cuts on the highway with Spain.
Emmanuel Macron announced on the social network Twitter that Germany, Greece, Poland, Romania and Italy had begun to come to the aid of France. “Thanks to them”, wrote the French president. “European solidarity is on the march!” For Macron, who faces a reinforced eurosceptic opposition in the last legislative elections, the response to the fires is a way to claim the practical usefulness of the European Union. The head of state is on vacation near Marseilles; it was his prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, who was in charge of visiting the affected area on Thursday.
France has activated the European civil protection mechanism (RescEU), which makes it possible to coordinate assistance in the event of fires and other disasters. In addition, the EU has a reserve of its own capabilities with aircraft and helicopters that several States, including Spain, make available to the EU. In this framework, the European Commission announced that it has sent four aircraft from the European fleet stationed in Sweden and Greece.
France was expecting two Greek Canadair seaplanes and two Swedish AirTractors on Thursday, the Elysee Palace said. The French presidency added that the arrival of 64 people and 24 vehicles from Germany, 146 people and 49 vehicles from Poland, and that reinforcements from Austria and Romania were being formed on the same day. The French network BFM-TV showed images of a German convoy on a French highway, an image of European solidarity that Macron wanted to underline in his message.
Spain, off the list
Spain, which is also suffering from a summer of serious fires, is not among the countries that are providing aid to France. “The demands are not made directly,” clarified a source from the Elysee. “The RescEU mechanism consists of going to the European Union, and the countries propose their help according to their capacity”.
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More than half of the area burned this summer in France is in the department (province) of Gironde, whose capital is Bordeaux. On July 13, two outbreaks were declared: one in La Teste-de-Buch, along the Atlantic coast, and another in Landiras, 70 kilometers inland. More than 20,000 hectares burned. The new outbreaks were declared on Tuesday in the municipalities of Saint-Magne and Hostens. They have already burned almost 7,000 hectares. The municipalities are located 20 kilometers from the July outbreak in Landiras, which had not been completely extinguished. There is a connection between the July and August fires.
“The fire of Landiras resurfaced [el martes] at noon in the municipality of Saint-Magne, after leaving the area in which it had been fixed,” the Gironde Prefecture explained in a statement on Wednesday. In another statement, the Prefecture abounds in the causes of the fire: “The conditions are particularly difficult: the vegetation and the soil are particularly dry after more than a month without rain. The heatwave temperatures (40 ° C on this day) should be maintained until Saturday and combine with very dry air to create conditions of very severe risk of fire outbreak.
Traffic was interrupted during the afternoon and evening of Wednesday and part of the morning of Thursday on the French highway A63, which connects western France with the Basque Country and passes near the area of the fire. The Spanish-French border crossing of Biriatou, between Irun and Hendaye, was closed to trucks for five hours.
There have been no fatalities in Gironde. The Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, declared on Wednesday that there are “great suspicions” that this fire was intentional. Two firefighters were injured, and 17 residences and two trucks have been burned, reports Agence France Presse.
The Gironde fire, one of nine active in France, mobilizes 1,100 French firefighters. In total, 10,000 firefighters and civil protection personnel are mobilized throughout the country.
In July, when he visited the southwestern regions devastated by the first wave of fires, Macron admitted that the French fleet of 22 civil protection aircraft, while it may have been sufficient in previous years, may not be in a future in which fires like this year’s will be played more frequently. And he recalled that the EU pays “100%” of the new planes that France buys. “I say this to those who sometimes criticize Europe,” he said.
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