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Disaster for Lourdes after worst floods in 100 years

Miraculous grotto, chapels and curative pools left in ruins

<p>Picture: Pascal Pavani/AFP</p>

Picture: Pascal Pavani/AFP

  • Ben McPartland for The Local
  • France
  • June 24, 2013
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France's president François Hollande said on Thursday that a state of natural disaster would be declared in the southwest of the country after rampaging floods wreaked devastation across the region and left the Town of Lourdes and its famous Catholic pilgrimage site facing ruin.

Only the Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception survived unscathed from the floods that devastated the pilgrimage site in the town of Lourdes.

The shrine's famous grotto was submerged under muddy water while chapels and the bathing pools filled with water many believe has curative powers, were left in ruin, as millions of gallons of flood water rampaged through the town.

Only six months ago the town was hit by similar floods which caused over a million euros worth of damage.

But with snow melt adding to the weight of the flood waters, as the Gave de Pau river burst its banks, this week’s deluge was even more destructive than last October's.

The mayor of Lourdes, Jean-Pierre Artiganav spelled out the impact on the town, describing it as an "economic disaster”.

“Our priority is to reorganize access [to the town] so Lourdes can continue to survive.  But we will need a lot of time for the clean up and to re-establish a communication network.

The clean-up is likely to take months rather than weeks, with further downpours ensuring that water levels remained high on Thursday.

Lourdes is visited by millions of pilgrims each year, meaning the town’s economy is almost entirely dependent on the tourist trade.

But the famous sanctuary, which the Catholic Church has linked to 68 miracles, may never fully recover from the disaster and will remain closed for the foreseeable future.

Full Story: Lourdes faces 'economic disaster' after floods 

Source: The Local France

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