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700 firefighters battle forest fire in southern France

700 firefighters battle forest fire in southern France
Firefighters spray water to extinguish a wildfire near Besseges, southern France. (Photo: Sylvain Thomas / AFP)

Residents were evacuated overnight as flames threatened villages in the area

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Around 700 firefighters backed by aircraft are battling a massive blaze in France's southern Gard département that had already burned 600 hectares (1,500 acres) overnight.

The operation "is continuing, but the fire is advancing more slowly and fortunately is no longer threatening any homes," a spokesman for the local fire service told AFP, adding that several fire fronts remained "inaccessible".

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Two Milan firefighting planes resumed dumping water on the blaze from early in the morning, the spokesman said.

READ ALSO ‘Be vigilant’: The parts of France braced for forest fires this summer

The prefecture this morning placed several areas of the département on red alert for fire risks.

People in the hamlet of Bordezac and other small settlements in the Besseges area were evacuated on Thursday evening, with the local prefect's office saying around 100 had to be put up for the night.

Firefighters were drawn from neighbouring regions to battle the flames Thursday, while 12 firefighting planes and two helicopters were also deployed.

The fire service said thousands of hectares of heavily wooded land were under threat, as strong winds fanned the flames through the dried-out trees.

Although several other fires began in the region on Thursday, most were put out before nightfall.

READ ALSO What to do if you see a wildfire in France

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