These images show a mayor explaining how he and firefighters became surrounded by flames from a massive wildfire that has been engulfing the French Riviera near St Tropez since yesterday afternoon.
According to the latest information, over 1,200 firefighters are still tackling the blaze and over 7,000 people including holidaymakers have been evacuated from nearby campsites and villages, while half of a nearby nature reserve has already gone up in smoke.
Other images uploaded by various fire departments show firefighters desperately tackling the massive inferno.
Over 7,000 hectares of land have now been burnt while 11 firefighting planes have been deployed in a bid to tackle the blaze.
The shocking blaze is taking place in the Var department in southern France, on the French Riviera near the popular tourist hotspot Saint-Tropez, while similar incidents have rocked Italy, Greece, and Turkey in recent days.
In one video, Stephan Gady, the Mayor of the small commune of La Mole, just 18 kilometres (11 miles) from the beaches of St Tropez, says (in French): “I am currently in the field. We are completely surrounded by fire and we have no way to get back to La Mole at the moment.”
The mayor, who can be seen wearing a face mask as the blaze rages behind him, with thick, black smoke filling the air, added that they had gone to the area to assist a family who was at risk and needed to be evacuated.
Turning his camera so that firefighters tackling the blaze can be seen behind him, he praised them for their efforts, which he called “remarkable”. Filming the video last night, he ends it by asking people to “remain vigilant”.
The local prefecture has asked motorists to avoid “congesting the roads around the Gulf of Saint-Tropez” so that the emergency workers are not impeded in their efforts to put the fires out.
Holidaymakers and locals who have been evacuated are being housed in various communal buildings including a gymnasium. Concha Agero, Deputy Director of the French Biodiversity Office, has been quoted as saying: “Half of the Plaine des Maures nature reserve has been devastated.”
She added: “It’s a disaster because it’s one of the last spots sheltering Hermann’s tortoises” (Testudo hermanni), a rare species that is listed as “near threatened” on the IUCN’s Red List of Endangered Species. This species is only found in the department of Var and in Corsica.
It is estimated that there are only 15,000 of them left, including 10,000 in the nature reserve. Agero added that she hopes that some of the species buried themselves underground to escape the flames.
The situation could get worse before it gets better, with local media outlet France TV Info quoting firefighters as saying this morning (Tuesday): “The flames have progressed at a rate of 4 kph (2.5 mph) whereas usually, it is 1 kph (0.62 mph).”
Other firefighters have also described the blaze as “very violent”. It started yesterday, roughly 100 kilometres (62 miles) northeast of the port city of Toulon, which is some 80 kilometres (49.7) further down the coast from Saint-Tropez.
The safety status of the mayor and the CCFF workers is currently unclear.