Hundreds of firefighters are battling to put out two fires in the south of France. Officials at Codis, the regional agency which co-ordinates firefighting, describe the blazes, which broke out on Thursday evening near each other, as "the biggest fire in the Mediterranean basin this year".

Officials say that 400 firefighters, 36 fire engines and nine water-carrying airplanes are trying to put out the flames which spread across an uninhabited and uncultivated area in mountains 15 kilometres from the southern city of Narbonne.

They say that they have contained the smaller blaze, which has destroyed about 150 hectares of brush, but that the larger has spread to an area which is inaccessible by land.

That fire, which was the first to start, had already destroyed 450 hectares of vegetation by 5.30 pm on Thursday.

No injuries or serious damage to crops or premises are reported but firefighters have had to protect some buildings. The lightly-inhabited area is in a natural park in the southern Corbières region near the Mediterranean coast.