France sounds climate change alarm as large wildfire sweeps across border with Spain


rance has raised the alarm about the growing risk of forest fires because of climate change after firefighters tackled the biggest blaze of the year so far.

The fire, which erupted on Sunday, burned on more than 2,500 acres of woods and scrubland along the Mediterranean coast and spread across the border into north-eastern Spain.

Hundreds of firefighters were deployed to tackle the forest fire between Banyuls-sur-Mer and Cerbere in southern France.

On a visit to the area on Monday, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said: “The fire season is starting early because of climate warming.”

France has been afflicted by forest fires for years but they generally used to start later in the year.

However, major wildfires in Europe are now starting earlier, becoming more frequent and harder to stop, and doing more damage.

Scientists say they are likely to get worse as climate change intensifies, and the Mediterranean region is warming faster than the global average.

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A plane drops fire retardant over a forest fire on a hill near the village of Banyuls-sur-Mer

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A plane drops fire retardant over a forest fire on a hill near the village of Banyuls-sur-Mer

/ AFP via Getty Images

Mr Darmanin said: “We’re in April. We have already seen the start of several important fires, notably in the south of France.”

Droughts that hit France last year have been compounded by shortages of rain this past winter, pouring on even greater risk.

French authorities are urging home-owners to chop back and thin out trees and scrubland around their properties and appealing for people to take extra care not to discard cigarettes or otherwise start fires inadvertently.

French rescue services spokesman Arnaud Wilm told broadcaster FranceInfo on Monday morning that the blaze is being successfully contained and that its biggest flames have been extinguished but fire crews are still working to completely stop its spread and put it out.

On the Spanish side, firefighters said the flames that spread close to the town of Portbou are still active but have been stabilised and are no longer spreading.

They said two border roads remain closed to traffic and the train service linking Portbou to Cerbere has been halted.

Spanish national television said some 50 people were temporarily evacuated from their homes, while around 20 French people unable to cross the border were given accommodation in the town overnight.

Evening Standard News London