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12,000 people were forced to evacuate from France’s southern Cote d’Azur on Wednesday, July 26 as over 1,000 firefighters battled wildfires in the region, according to Var Matin.

Col. Eric Martin of Var’s firefighting unit told BFM-TV that the flames have charred at least 7,000 hectares (17,297 acres) around the hillside town of Bormes-Les-Mimosas.

Mistral winds spread the flames from La Londe-Les-Maures to Bormes.

The mistral is a northwesterly wind that blows from southern France into the Gulf of Lion on the country’s Mediterranean coast.

The winds occur when there’s an area of high pressure in the Bay of Biscay and an area of low pressure in the Gulf of Genoa. The flow of air between the two air masses draws in a current that accelerates between the foothills of the Alps and Cevennes mountains.

As the flames advanced towards Bormes, tourists abandoned their hotels for the beach, France24 reported.

“There were lots of people sleeping in their cars, some found rooms in emergency shelters provided by the local government.”

Sciences et Avenir journalist Olivier Hertel to France24

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