Multiple fires have been set off at a migrant camp near Calais, as a week-long French government operation to evacuate the Jungle and dismantle the makeshift shelters continues.
Local opposition to the squalid and unsanitary camp which at one point housed more than 6000 people, along with criticism from right-wing politicians, has stung the French government into launching a clearing operation which began on Monday.
More than 4000 migrants, who had come to Calais hoping to cross the short stretch of sea to Britain by trying to leap on trucks and trains or walk through the tunnel, have been bussed out of the camp and relocated around France.
“The operation will continue today to remove the empty shelters and to avoid them being set fire to again,” a local government spokesman told France Info radio.
The Calais prefecture official said one person had been slightly injured in his inner ear by one of the explosions and had been taken to hospital.
Late on Tuesday, regional prefect Fabienne Buccio said it was difficult to prevent the fires, which became something of a ritual earlier this year when one section of the camp was partly dismantled.
“Some migrants follow traditions – we asked them not to do it – but they set ablaze their tents and their shelters when they leave,” she said.
“We told them not to do it, but some…do it anyway. We are on standby, the fire brigade is in the vicinity to guarantee security and to prevent the fire from spreading.”
People fleeing poverty and war outside Europe have over the past few years congregated at Calais, the main port of entry to Britain from France.
They have continued to come despite the high fences built over past months to keep them from crossing, and despite Britain’s refusal to accept the vast majority of them.
For children who may be accepted by the British government, a separate facility has been set up.
Dorothy Sang from Save the Children said children ran to escape the fires.
“Children will be scared, and they will start to run,” she said.
“If they’ve had a night where there’s fires going all around them, and now they are faced with bulldozers, I’m worried that they won’t want to queue any more, they are going to take matters into their own hands, and this is a real hotbed for people who want to exploit vulnerable children.”