The fire ravaging the Côte Bleue west of Marseille is now “under control”, a Bouches-du-Rhône firefighter official said at midday. He left behind scenes of desolation: charred trees, burnt campsites, families shocked after being evacuated at night, sometimes by sea, to escape the flames. The fire is “under control” when the larger flames are extinguished. At least 2,700 people, including many French and foreign tourists, had to be evacuated overnight to escape the fire devouring the Côte Bleue, an area on the shores of the Mediterranean bordered by pines and forests, west of Marseilles. An establishment for dependent elderly people (Ehpad) also had to be evacuated.
“A great point of relief is that there is no casualty. However, there could have been many victims: two holiday villages were destroyed, and then all along the path of the fire, there were houses which were affected, ”told Agence France- Press Gaby Charroux, mayor of Martigues, the city most affected by the disaster. “It was panic, we had to go down to the beach and we saw the flames approaching,” Maryse Escuder, 83, on vacation with her family and her great-grandchildren, told Agence France-Presse. La Source campsite, and who ended up sleeping in a gymnasium in Martigues. “We took people on my small semi-rigid boat to take them to the larger boats of the firefighters, we were in the middle of smoke, sparks, people were panicked, it was a bit of the apocalypse” , tells Agence France-Presse Philippe, an employee in a refinery who made his pleasure boat available and helped rescue dozens of people with a police officer also on board. “I started by smelling smoke and then I saw the flames,” says Marc Lorenz, a German father on vacation with his wife and three children. They too were evacuated to a gymnasium like other German and Dutch tourists.
On Wednesday, at midday, residents and summer visitors were able to start returning to certain areas, said the mayor of Martigues. But others housed in two campsites that burned down remained in temporary accommodation. The firefighters continue their operations on the scene to avoid any recovery, and remain “vigilant” because of an announced southerly wind and rising temperatures.
1,800 firefighters mobilized
Some 1,800 firefighters as well as water bombers fought hard against the fire which broke out around 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Due to the strong wind, the fire quickly progressed up to eight kilometers in two hours and threatened several localities on the shores of the Mediterranean, “the flames rushing into the peri-urban districts, between houses and campsites”, reported firefighters. Deployed massively since this weekend due to the hot weather and strong winds, the Bouches-du-Rhône firefighters, assisted by reinforcements from eastern France, had to deal with several other fires at the same time Tuesday evening.
A second fire, which broke out in the same area but closer to an industrial area, devastated 130 hectares, destroying or damaging a house and several businesses, firefighters said. Since the weekend, access to all the forest areas of Bouches-du-Rhône has been prohibited because of the strong winds and high temperatures which increase the risk of fire.