Thousands of people were evacuated from homes and vacation spots near the French Riviera as firefighters battled a fire racing through surrounding forests, the latest of several wildfires that have swept the Mediterranean region.

At least 22 people have suffered smoke inhalation or minor fire-related injuries in the blaze that started on Monday evening about 24 miles inland from the coastal resort of Saint-Tropez, according to the top government official for the Var region.

The extent of the damage was unclear while the fire still raged.

Fuelled by powerful seasonal winds coming off the Mediterranean Sea, the fire had consumed some 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) of forest by Tuesday morning, according to the Var regional administration.

A fireman watches a fire in the distance (Daniel Cole/AP)
A fireman watches a fire in the distance (Daniel Cole/AP)

Some 6,000 people have been evacuated from homes and a dozen campgrounds in the picturesque region popular with vacationers, while others were locked down in a holiday centre for Air France employees.

Backed by water-dumping planes and helicopters, more than 900 firefighters worked to contain the blaze, the civil security service spokesman Alexandre Jouassard said.

Local authorities closed roads and blocked access to forests across the region, and urged caution.

Such extreme weather is expected happen more frequently as the planet is warming.

France Wildfire
Smoke billows from the forest near La Garde-Freinet (AP)

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

Intense heat and wildfires have also struck countries around southern Europe and North Africa in recent weeks, with fires killing at least 75 people in Algeria and 16 in Turkey.

In Greece on Tuesday, hundreds of firefighters backed by water-dropping planes were battling a large forest fire that has led to the evacuation of a care home and several villages northwest of Athens.

Hundreds of wildfires have burned across Greece this month, fuelled by the country’s longest and most severe heat wave in decades that left its forests and shrubland bone dry.

A fire burns in the forest (Daniel Cole/AP)
A fire burns in the forest (Daniel Cole/AP)

Italy has also seen several fire-related deaths.

Also Tuesday, Israeli firefighters worked for a third consecutive day to contain a wildfire that has consumed a large swath of forest west of Jerusalem and threatened several communities.

Worsening drought and heat, linked to climate change, have also fuelled wildfires this summer in the western United States and in Russia’s northern Siberia region.