SHARE
COPY LINK

HEATWAVE

Macron to visit wildfires site as blazes break out across France

As temperatures finally begin to fall after a record-breaking heatwave in France, forest fires still rage across the country. On Wednesday President Emmanuel Macron will visit the south west, where two major fires continue burn.

Macron to visit wildfires site as blazes break out across France
Firefighters stand on a road with heavy smoke in the background during forest fires in south-western France, on July 17, 2022. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

The French president is expected to meet members of the emergency services, local officials and volunteers as he tours the area on Wednesday alongside Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

In Gironde, south west France, there are currently two massive fires – in La Teste-de-Buch and Landiras – that have not yet been contained, though firefighters have managed to gain better control over the flames more thanks to improved weather conditions. 

But fires have broken out across France, including in Brittany, Yvelines in the Paris region and Oise in north east France.

MAP Where are the main wildfires in France right now?

The heatwave has largely ended, with temperatures across the majority of the country dropping from above 40C on Tuesday to the mid-20s on Wednesday.

In Gorinde, local fire service spokesman Arnaud Mendousse told AFP that only 300 more hectares had burned since Tuesday evening. “Our assessment is generally positive. The situation improved overnight.”

In total, nearly 20,600 hectares of forest have gone up in smoke – an area equivalent to almost twice the size of Paris.

So far, 36,750 people have been evacuated from the area, and most do not know when it will be safe to return home. 

“We are not in a position to tell people when they will be able to go home,” said the sub-prefect of Arcachon, Ronan Léaustic, during his press conference.

Humans are not the only ones who have needed to be taken to safety. On Monday, the local authorities in Gironde ordered the emergency evacuation of a zoo in the Bassin d’Arcachon. While most animals were transported out of harms way, “a dozen unfortunately did not survive the heat and stress,” according to the Environment Ministry.  

The biggest blaze is in a thinly populated area south of Bordeaux near the village of Landiras, which is being treated by police as suspected arson.

A suspect remains in custody and will be charged or released on Wednesday.

A second fire has ripped through a popular ocean-front tourist area behind the Dune du Pilat, Europe’s biggest sand dune, near the Bay of Arcachon.

It is thought to have been caused by a van that caught fire last week.

READ MORE: MAP: Where are the main wildfires in France right now?

Meanwhile, fires have also broken out in eastern France and notably in Brittany, where a fire is currently burning in Finistère, causing 500 people to be evacuated.

The fire broke as Brittany experienced record-breaking high temperatures and was placed for the first time on the ‘red’ alert for heat by Météo France. As of Tuesday morning, Finistère went into the ‘orange’ alert level as temperatures began to drop and storms picked up. 

The local authorities in Finistère said the fire has slowed down and is in the process of being contained, citing 1725 hectares burned.

The fire in Brittany burned along the mountains of Arrée, where a historic chapel – the church of St Michel de Brasparts – stands. Firefighters were able to save the church from burning, with flames stopping just a few metres from the structure.

Smoke from the fires has drifted across large parts of France, with the départements of Gironde, Charente, Dordogne and Vienne particularly affected by poor air quality.

READ ALSO Is the smoke drifting from France’s wildfires dangerous?

But the effects were felt as far away as Paris, as inhabitants of greater Paris Île-de-France region noticed a hazy sky and the smell of burning on Tuesday night.

According to Airparif, the agency that monitors air quality in the Île-de-France region, concentrations of particulate matter (air pollution) were in “in sharp increase,” which is attributable to the fire in Gironde and to “local fires”.

The AirParif particle pollution map below shows pollution coming from the south west.

For residents in the Paris area, the fire in Rochefort-en-Yvelines, near Rambouillet, might be most to blame for the strong smell of smoke, however. The city also saw two fires on Tuesday – one at a restaurant in the 16th arrondissement and another in a vehicle in the 17th arrondisement. These are not likely to be the origins of the plume of pollution, however.

Across France, emergency services are asking people not to call if they simply smell smoke, only if they see a fire.  

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

SPORT

French cities refuse to set up big screens for World Cup matches

Many of France's big cities have decided not to set up big screens or fan zones for the football World Cup in November - a decision taken in protest at the human rights record of host country Qatar.

French cities refuse to set up big screens for World Cup matches

Weeks ahead the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, authorities in several French cities – including Paris – have already announced that they will boycott the event by not showing any matches on big screens (écran géant)  or by creating fan zones, although bars and restaurants can still decide to screen matches.

Paris

France’s capital will not show matches from the World Cup in Qatar on giant screens, partly due to the “conditions” of the tournament, the city’s current deputy mayor for sports, Pierre Rabadan, told AFP on Monday.   

Rabadan told AFP: “For us, there was no question of setting up big screen areas for several reasons: the first is the conditions in which this World Cup has been organised, both in terms of the environment and the social aspect. The second is the fact that it takes place in December.”

Bordeaux

Bordeaux’s mayor, a member of the Green Party, Pierre Humic, said on RMC (the French sports radio channel), that his city will also boycott the event by not installing any big screens. According to BFMTV, Humic planned to finalise his decision on Tuesday, during the city council meeting.

“We, the mayors, are currently concerned about broadcasting [the World Cup] on big screens in our cities. And it is our role to say that we do not want to be complicit in this energy waste,” Humic said on RMC.

Humic clarified that bars and restaurants could nevertheless broadcast the competition throughout the city at their own discretion. “I am not the director of conscience of Bordeaux,” he said.

“Everyone can respond as they wish. And far be it from me to impose my point of view on anyone. I am very respectful of individual freedoms.”

Lille

In the north of France, giant screens will remain turned off too. On Friday night, Lille’s city council formalised their decision not screen matches.

Mayor, Martine Aubry, tweeted her disapproval for the World Cup in Qatar, calling it “nonsense in terms of human rights, the environment and sport.” 

Additionally, the deputy Mayor, Arnaud Deslandes, said that the city will not create fanfare around an “event we refuse to support.”

However, at least a dozen bars in the city plan to broadcast the World Cup, though some told Franceinfo they will abstain.

READ MORE: ‘Allez putain!’: French phrases you need for watching the 2022 World Cup

One such bar is “O’Mulligan’s,” run by manager Justine Chambrillion.

Chambrillon told Franceinfo that the establishment welcomed over 800 customers during the 2018 World Cup, but this year they will not air it. The manager said it would be “absurd to rejoice in a sporting event that has caused thousands of deaths, that flouts human rights, and that has a completely disastrous ecological impact.”

Marseille

The Mediterranean city announced previously that it would not set up fanzones or giant screens prior to the finals, at which time they would only do so if the French team qualified. However, on October 3rd, local authorities said they have decided not to install any giant screens, regardless of the performance of the French team.

“The City of Marseille is committed to an ever fairer and more inclusive practice of sport. Marseille, which is strongly attached to the values of sharing and solidarity in sport and committed to building a greener city, cannot contribute to the promotion of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar,” the city said in a statement.

Strasbourg

Strasbourg’s mayor, Jeanne Barseghian, a member of the Green Party said during the city council meeting on Monday that “there are no plans for public screenings concerning the World Cup, because the City of Strasbourg will not broadcast the 2022 World Cup organised by Qatar.”

Elaborating on the decision, Barseghian told France 3 Alsace that: “It is impossible for us not to listen to the numerous alerts from NGOs denouncing the abuse and exploitation of immigrant workers. Strasbourg, the European capital and seat of the European Court of Human Rights, cannot decently support these abuses.”

Several other French cities and smaller towns, including Nancy, Reims and Rodez, have also decided on a boycott, with others likely to follow. 

Human rights

The issue of human rights is central to many cities’ and individuals’ choices to boycott the Qatar World Cup, namely the treatment of migrant workers who were hired to build much of its infrastructure.

NGOs such as Human Rights Watch allege the “Kafala system” – defined by the Council on Foreign Relations as a sponsorship programme “that gives private citizens and companies in Jordan, Lebanon, and most Arab Gulf countries almost total control over migrant workers’ employment and immigration status” – leaves migrants vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment. 

Specifically, many have expressed concern over the number of workers who have died or been injured in the construction of the World Cup. As of 2021, at least 6,500 migrant workers involved in the construction of the World Cup had died in Qatar, according to The Guardian after consulting data from the embassies of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

However, Human Rights Watch reported that the true numbers are likely higher, “because there are a dozen more countries sending migrant workers to Qatar, including the Philippines, Kenya, and Ghana.”

Qatari authorities have said that there have only been three deaths at World Cup stadiums in work accidents.

Others have expressed concern regarding the rights of LGBT people attending the tournament, as homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.

After one high profile athlete came out, he said he would like to play in the World Cup, but was worried about his safety in doing so. 

In response to questioning about the safety of footballers – and fans – the head of the “social and human legacy initiative” for the tournament, Nasser Al-Khori, said to SBS news that the country is “modernising, but in our own sort of way, sticking to our identity, our culture, our roots.” He added “We welcome everybody, but we also expect and want people to respect our culture” when asked about visitors and players from the LGBT community, a comment that has been met with backlash from rights groups.

Environmental impacts

Several French public officials have discussed their dissatisfaction over the environmental impacts of the 2022 World Cup. 

Dezeen reported that the tournament will generate “more emissions than the whole country of Iceland emits in a year.” 

According to a report published by organisers of the FIFA 2022 World Cup, the event will emit 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The tournament will run from November 20th to December 18th.

SHOW COMMENTS