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As winds calm, firefighters find hope battling French blaze

The blaze has left two people dead and 27 injured and forced at least 10,000 to evacuate.

LE LUC, France (AP) — A fire that has ravaged forests near the French Riviera for four days is slowing down as winds and hot weather subside, but more than 1,100 firefighters were still struggling to get it under control Thursday, local authorities said.

It was the latest of many wildfires scorching the Mediterranean region this summer. The French blaze has left two people dead and 27 injured and forced at least 10,000 to evacuate campgrounds, hotels and homes across the region.

The fire is “less violent and its progression has slowed,” the administration for the surrounding Var region said in a statement Thursday. Strong winds off the Mediterranean had fanned the flames but are now calming, and temperatures are dropping.

“We can be optimistic,” the head of the regional fire service, Dominique Lain, told broadcaster France-Info.

The fire has already burned 7,100 hectares (18,000 acres) of forest since it started Monday about 40 kilometers (24 miles) inland from the coastal resort of Saint-Tropez.

In the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, huge water-bombing planes could be seen swooping down to fill their bellies with water to dump across the flaming Riviera backcountry. Reinforcements to give firefighters on the ground periodic rests were coming in from elsewhere around France.

Wildfires this summer have left areas in Greece, Turkey, Italy, Algeria and Spain in smoldering ruins. In Greece on Thursday, hundreds of Greek and Polish firefighters were battling a major wildfire decimating a pine forest for a fourth day northwest of the Greek capital.

The fire near the village of Vilia, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Athens, has already burned through thousands of hectares and led to evacuation orders being issued for several villages in the area. Strong winds forecast for later in the day could complicate firefighting efforts.

Scientists say there is little doubt that climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving extreme events such as heat waves, droughts and wildfires.

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