The French army were branded 'imbeciles' after a shelling exercise set fire to a suburb of Marseille. The government spoke of its fury as hundreds of residents were evacuated from one of the worst wildfires in recent years.
The Foreign Legion conducted the artillery practice depsite scorching summer temperatures - meaning virtually every shell that landed on a hillside started a fire. Dozens of buildings were destroyed in the blazes hit the eastern Trois-Ponts suburb including a retirement home housing 120 pensioners .
No serious injuries were reported but residents had to be evacuated to nearby gyms and public buildings. The National Forestry Office reportedly said 400 to 500 houses were threatened by the fire over an five-mile front.
Thousands of acres of tinder dry scrub have already been ravaged for the flames. regional government prefect Michel Sappin branded the army "imbeciles" and demanded court martials for officers who ordered the exercise
In such weather conditions, with high winds, the army should refrain from carrying out shelling practice, he said.
The army apologised for its "terrible error."