Huge fire rips through France's Grande-Synthe migrant camp
A huge fire tore through the Grande-Synthe migrant camp outside the northern French city of Dunkirk late on Monday, reducing it to "a heap of ashes," the regional chief said.
Firefighters said at least 10 people had been injured in the blaze at the camp, which, by the end of March, was home to some 1,500 people living in closely packed wooden huts.
"There is nothing left but a heap of ashes," Michel Lalande, prefect of France's Nord region, told reporters at the scene, as firefighters continued to battle the flames.
"It will be impossible to put the huts back where they were before."
Lalande said the blaze had been started after a fight on Monday afternoon between Afghans and Kurds at the camp that had left six injured with knife wounds.
A massive plume of smoke rose from the camp into the night sky and was visible from several kilometres away.
French officials had said in mid-March that security forces were planning to start dismantling the camp following clashes at the site.
The population of the Grande-Synthe camp has swelled since the destruction last October of the squalid "Jungle" camp near Calais, about 40 kilometres away.
For more than a decade, France's northern coast has been a magnet for refugees and migrants trying to reach Britain, with French authorities repeatedly tearing down camps in the region.
Migrants gather along the northern coast in France seeking to break into trucks heading to Britain or pay smugglers to help them get across the Channel.
There have been several violent incidents at the Grande-Synthe camp, with police intervening last month after five men were injured in a fight. Another man was stabbed in November.