Firefighters struggle to control forest fire

A forest fire that has devastated 550 hectares (1350 acres) of coastal pine forest close to one of France's best surfing beaches continued to rage Friday.

The start of a heatwave that was set to send temperatures in the area soaring to 40 degrees Celsius (104F) this weekend was complicating the task of 200 firefighters battling to bring the blaze under control.

The fire started on Thursday afternoon in the area between the inland town of Lacanau and the spectacular Atlantic beaches that are this week hosting the Lacanau Surf Pro event featuring some of the world's top surfers.

Four Canadair waterbombers were deployed from dawn in an attempt to stop the fire spreading further.

To date only five residences have had to be evacuated but local authorities have taken the preventative step of temporarily banning the public from all wooded areas in the Gironde department.

A cigarette dropped from a car on Thursday is thought to have started the blaze.

The Landes forest, which spreads across the Gironde and the neighbouring departments of Landes and Lot and Garonne, is the largest maritime pine forest in Europe.

French authorities have issued a health alert for several regions this weekend after forecasters predicted unusually high temperatures in the southwest and centre of the country.

An unexpected and sustained heatwave in the first two weeks of August 2003 left an estimated 15,000 mostly elderly people dead.

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Fire ravages building near Paris opera house

Police in the French capital have advised people to avoid the Boulevard des Capucines, near Place de l'Opéra, after a building caught fire.

A large fire has broken out near Paris' Place de l'Opéra. Emergency services say to avoid the area.
A large fire has broken out near Paris' Place de l'Opéra (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

A large building has caught fire on the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris’ 9th arrondissement. 

Images posted on social media show plumes of black smoke coming out of the old haussmanian building as fire engines attend to the blaze.

It is not yet clear what the cause of the fire was. 

French police have advised the public to stay away from the area to allow access for fire engines. 

We will be updating this story as we get more information.