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Blaze closes France-Spain motorway for several hours

Motorists queue in their vehicles at a toll station on the A7 motorway near Vienne, south-east France on Saturday AFP

A motorway linking France and Spain was closed for several hours on Saturday evening because of a fire in Spanish Catalonia. The blaze broke out in sweltering heat, as millions of drivers hit French roads on a weekend that sees many returning from holiday as others start their vacation.

Firefighters in Spain's Catalonia province said they were aided by six water-dropping planes and helicopters.

"We're working together with French firefighters on a fire at la Jonquera," they tweeted.

Catalan fire brigade tweets aerial view of fire

The fire started at about 5.30pm, according to French officials, and was brought under control later in the evening.

But traffic was stopped on the road as it raged, leading some motorists to complain that their tolls soared through no fault of their own.

Motorist complains of closed tollgates

This weekend sees the heaviest traffic of the year in France, with conditions made even more difficult by the heatwave that has hit much of Europe.

The authorities have advised drivers to avoid peak hours and take measures such as drinking water to protect their health and that of their passengers, especially children and the elderly.