Sunbathers are evacuated from the beach in Le Lavandou, in the French Riviera, as plumes of smoke rise from a nearby wildfire on July 26, 2017. French authorities ordered the evacuation of up to 12,000 people around a picturesque hilltop town in the southern Cote d’Azur region as fires hopscotched around the Mediterranean coast for a third day.(Claude Paris / Associated Press)
A plane drops fire retardant over a forest near La Londe-les-Maures in the French Riviera.(Claude Paris / Associated Press)
A man inspects the damage following a wildfire in Bormes-les-Mimosas, France.(Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP/Getty Images)
An aerial view shows plumes of smoke from wildfires in the outskirts of Bormes-les-Mimosas, France.(Nadine Achoui-Lesage / Associated Press)
Firefighters battle a blaze in Bormes-les-Mimosas, France.(Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP/Getty Images)
Men try to extinguish a fire in Bormes-les-Mimosas, France.(Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP/Getty Images)
Residents hose down hot spots following a fire in Bormes-les-Mimosas, France.(Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP/Getty Images)
A man inspects the damage to a burned-out house in Bormes-les-Mimosas, France.(Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP/Getty Images)
People try to extinguish a fire in Bormes-les-Mimosas, France.(Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP/Getty Images)
Residents inspect the damage to a home following a wildfire in Bormes-les-Mimosas, France.(Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP/Getty Images)
Wildfires continue to ravage the hillside in Bormes-les-Mimosas, France.(Marion Leflour / AFP/Getty Images)
Evacuatees take refuge on the beach on July 26, 2017, as a wildfire rages in the forest in Bormes-les-Mimosas, France.(Marion Leflour / AFP/Getty Images)
Wildfires blazing across the south of France have forced the emergency evacuation of thousands of residents and tourists.
The French authorities said they had moved to safety around 12,000 people — most of whom are vacationing on its Mediterranean coast in camping sites and holiday homes — as flames swept through forests and firefighters struggled to stop them from spreading.
On Wednesday, French officials said that more than 4,000 firefighters were mobilized to tackle the fires as they raged around the Côte d’Azur at the height of the tourist season.
Fires broke out along the popular seaside area on Monday, forcing a few scattered evacuations and causing a scare on the edges of the celebrated seaside resort of Saint Tropez. The latest and most serious conflagration started around the hillside town of Bormes-les-Mimosas on Tuesday and quickly spread across swathes of pine forest, aided by strong winds and dry ground conditions caused by an ongoing heatwave.
On Wednesday four tracker planes and several water-dumping aircraft were dispatched to the region as billowing black smoke filled the sky. By evening, the situation was still not under control.
Tourists and local residents used Twitter to share photos and videos from the region.
Emmanuelle Kremer of Bormes-les-Mimosas posted: “Fire still going on since midnight...this seems endless.”
Colonel Eric Martin of the local Var region firefighting unit told French television nearly 600 staff were trying to stop the blaze spreading. It has already destroyed more than 3,500 acres of forest in the region.
The evacuated were given temporary shelter in local town halls, gymnasiums and schools. Some tourists slept on sandy beaches.
The airport at Toulon, on the coast, was briefly closed Wednesday but has reopened.
France’s Mediterranean coastline is vulnerable to seasonal wildfires because of its inland forest fringe that becomes a tinderbox in the dry summers.
Local newspaper, the Var Martin, said several firefighters and police had been injured, but no residents or holidaymakers have been hurt.
Devastating summer fires also broke out on the island of Corsica, where nearly 5,000 acres of forest to the north of the holiday isle were consumed, and in Portugal and Albania. In Italy, fires have raged for several weeks.
Willsher is a special correspondent.
11:35 a.m.: This article was updated with staff reporting and the latest figures on acreage burned and firefighters deployed.
This article was originally published at 6:25 a.m.