Lourdes is hit by severe floods after days of heavy rain

Ceri Roberts
Lourdes is hit by severe floods after days of heavy rain
Lourdes is hit by severe floods after days of heavy rain

PA

Hundreds of pilgrims, including many who are sick or disabled, have been evacuated from the historic town of Lourdes in south west France, as a result of flooding.

The grotto where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared before peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 is just one of the holy sites that has affected, and is now under around one metre (pictured above).

The Gave de Pau river, which runs through Lourdes, burst its banks after days of rain - and the wet weather is forecast to continue into next week.

Fortunately, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (pictured below), which is the most revered building in Lourdes, is undamaged.

PA

Thierry Castillo, the custodian of the Lourdes sanctuary, told the Daily Mail: "The space in front of the grotto is entirely flooded, with the altar under water. There are torrents of mud. The damage will cost thousands."

English tour guide Phil Lomas added: "It is a very worrying situation - everybody has been told to evacuate and get on to higher ground. There are real safety concerns here, especially for those in wheelchairs, or who are otherwise disabled. The police and other emergency services are leading the evacuation, along with priests and other clergy."

Sky News reports that two campsites have also been cleared, and several roads are closed. Buses have taken tourists from all hotels in the lower town to a conference centre and sports complex as the holy sites are expected to remain closed for several days.

Lourdes is hit by severe floods after days of heavy rain
Lourdes is hit by severe floods after days of heavy rain

PA


Around six million people visit Lourdes every year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Visitors go there to pray and people suffering from illness or disability claim to have been miraculously cured by the town's spring water.

The flooding has been described as the worst for 25 years.

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