Dutch among tourists evacuated from French campsites over fires

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Firefighters' gear (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Muffet)Firefighters' gear (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Muffet)

Multiple large natural fires broke out in the south of France on Monday, prompting the evacuation of over 2,500 tourists on vacation at the campsites in the coastal town of Argelès-sur-Mer. The area is a popular holiday destination among Dutch. "It rained ash particles", a Dutch tourist in the area said to AD.

Around 300 firefighters were deployed to battle no less than 11 fires in the area. The flames were fueled by gusts of wind reaching speeds of 70 kilometers per hour. "The fire is now under control, but still burning", a spokesperson for the local fire department said to AD. Some 300 hectares of forest went up in flames in the Aude region on Monday. 

Dutch tourist Richard Hoop, who is staying at the La Sirene campsite with his family, was swimming when he noticed the fire. "We smelled smoke and the smell got stronger very quickly", he said to AD. "Then we heard sirens and we saw firefighting planes flying above us." Hoop and his family headed to a seaside resort 15 kilometers away. "There was a long line of cars and ashes fluttered down."

The fires did not reach La Sirene and Hoop and his family were able to return later in the day.

Sabine Kragten is camping with her family at nearby campsite L’Hippocampe. "Due to the strong wind, the smell of the fire quickly came our way", she said to the newspaper. "We heard one siren after another and saw planes coming over." The wind made it look like the smoke came from all sides, she said. "Our eyes were bothering us a lot and people had cloths over their mouths. It was raining ash particles."

L’Hippocampe did not need to be evacuated. "The staff remained calm and organized", Kragten said. "When I read the news, I realize how close it was. We were lucky!"

Travelers' organization ANWB and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs both received no reports from Dutch people who needed help due to the evacuations, according to AD. 

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