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Environment

Man charged with starting French wildfire

media Firefighters at Ramatuelle in Provence Valery HacheAFP

A man has been charged with accidentally starting one of the fires that ravaged more than 7,000 hectares of vegetation in the south of France and Corsica this week and two teenagers have been named as assisted witnesses, which means they could be charged later.

With all the fires having subsided, except for one at Artigues near Aix-en-Provence, investigations have been launched to find out how they started.

A 42-year-old man was charged Friday after confessing to accidentally starting the fire at Peynier, also near Aix-en-Provence.He ws reportedly using a grinder, which sent out sparks that set fire to dry grass.

Two teenagers, who were arrested on Thursday, also appeared in court on Friday.

They were declared to be assisted witnesses to arson, a status that leaves the door open to charges being laid later.

Arson or negligence is also suspected to be the origin of the huge blaze at Bormes-les-Mimosa, near Saint Tropez, in part because is started at 10.30pm on Tuesday evening after the sun had gone down.

Local residents have told police they saw a suspicious vehicle in the area at the time.

In Corsica, which has also suffered badly, police report "troubling" indications of human intervention, pointing out that the fire started by a road.

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