Vacationers in the French Riviera this week hoped to enjoy a little sun, waves and relaxation. Instead, they got a massive wildfire.
Some 12,000 people evacuated the popular holiday spot Bormes-les-Mimosas, France, after a fire broke out at an RV park on Tuesday night. It quickly swept across 4,000 acres, and 500 firefighters rushed in to combat the flames. Awakened by wailing sirens, people fled homes and campsites in the dead of night and throughout the next day. Many holed up in gyms and town halls. But several hundred waited it out on nearby beaches, dozing and swimming as smoke billowed above the hills less than a mile away.
“The atmosphere was bizarre,” says Andrea Palasciano, a French Press Agency journalist on the scene. “Most people were still trying to enjoy their holiday, but the smoke was heavy and the air becoming more and more opaque and you could hear very loud Canadair air planes splashing water on the fires.”
The smog drifted down the beach and eventually grew so strong you could taste it. About mid-afternoon, a cop with a megaphone ordered everyone to leave. Tourists glumly packed up their chairs and umbrellas and shuffled further down the beach, captured in this surreal image by Reuters photographer Jean-Paul Pelissier. By Thursday, most of the fire was contained but left countless acres in ashes and several hundred dazed tourists plodding back from whence they came.
So much for that lovely beach vacation.