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Environment

Tossed cigarettes could cause Portugal-style deadly wildfires in France, minister

media Flames approach a house during a forest fire in Castagniers near Nice Reuters/Eric Gaillard

France could face a tragedy like Portugal's huge forest fires, which cost 64 lives, Interior Minister Christophe Collomb has warned while revealing that nearly 1,500 hectares in the south of the country have been ravaged by wildfires since 14 July, mostly due to human negligence.

There have been more than 30 forest fires in France since last Friday, Collomb revealed on Wednesday.

Particularly serious blazes hit Boulou in the Pyrenees mountains and Saint-Cannat and Castagniers in Provence, as well as on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.

Several thousand firefighters have been mobilised to combat them but they were still not compeletely extinguished on Wednesday, although they were under control, he said.

"The cause of the fires unfortunately seems to be often linked to negligence, to inappropriate behaviour, especially during the summe when climate conditions are difficult," the minister commented.

Tweet by firefighters in the south of France

"The small gesture that makes you a big idiot," reads the message on this graphic.

Nine out of 10 forest fires are caused by human activity, the authorities estimate.

The Saint-Cannat blaze, which destroyed 800 hectares of land, is believed to have been caused by a discarded cigarette.

Collomb appealed to French people's civic-mindedness to try to avoid further outbreaks, adding "the consequences can be tragic, like those that recently caused so much grief to the Portuguese people".

Massive fires in the Pedrogao Grande district of Portugal at the end of June caused 64 deaths and more than 250 injuries.

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