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Fire in Upper Corsica: 1,500 hectares covered, 700 people evacuated

Ⓒ AFP – Pascal POCHARD-CASABIANCA – |

Two fires, fueled by winds blowing up to 120km / h, traveled on the night from Friday to Saturday some 1,500 hectares of scrubland in Upper Corsica, the most important disaster in eastern Cape Corsica near Sisco and Pietracorbara where nearly 700 people, most of them vacationers, were evacuated.

“The fire is in the gardens of the houses, located at the edge of the vegetation and both try to extinguish it with the means of the edge,” observed a photographer of the AFP, present in Pietracorbara, on the East coast of the department where the fire left the night before since Nonza, north-west of Bastia in the middle of the tourist season.

Christian Burchi, 50, a resident of Sisco, explains living “a hell”. “We try to extinguish the flames with two buckets of water and a ridiculous pipe,” said the education official, joined by AFP. “There are fires everywhere, it burns everywhere,” said the man.

At midnight, the fire continued to advance in a “more urbanized area”, where several departmental roads were closed to traffic, according to authorities and witnesses.

By prevention, “500 people have been evacuated from a campsite in Pietracorbara (…) and 180 others in Sisco” to “schools, convent or to inhabitants”, said the prefect of Haute-Corse Gérard Gavory.

“Around 18:00, we started evacuating all the campers, so that they would not be intoxicated by the smoke coming into the campsite,” Véronica Guelfi, manager of A Casaiola camp, told AFP. Pietracorbara. A hundred of her clients left, but she and her husband and an employee preferred to stay: “There is no risk, we remain to watch.” “The fire is over the ridges about a kilometer from here. It’s impressive,” she says, without losing her composure.

On his advice, campers went to other campsites further south, others went to sleep at the school of Sisco.

“Dozens of G20 hikers have been sheltered in shelters,” according to the prefect, who invited “people to stay in their homes, close their doors and windows.”

A second, less important fire in Manso, in the Balagne, south of Calvi, covered 150 hectares of scrub and forest “but does not threaten homes or people,” said the prefect, adding that “the place Is inaccessible for relief “.

– ‘Extremely violent winds’ –

Ⓒ AFP – PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA – |

On the ground, “the progress of the fire is fast because of extremely violent winds that blow up to 100 km / h on average,” said Gavory.

Nearly 240 firefighters and 45 engines are engaged, but planes can not fly because of gusts of wind that have even reached 120 km / h, the relief agencies said. According to the prefect, “the air means will intervene at dawn”.

Friday night, the authorities again called the population to the utmost caution in Upper Corsica and the Var, due to fire risks due to a very severe drought and the strong gusts of mistral expected.

Since mid-July, the South-East of France and Corsica have experienced repeated fires that have destroyed more than 7,000 hectares of vegetation. Several people have been indicted in recent weeks in investigations into these fires. On Friday, a young man suspected of causing 16 fires in Istres and Fos-sur-Mer, in the Bouches-du-Rhône, was charged and placed in pre-trial detention.

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