Sunday, June 23, 2013

Flood waters recede in France after damaging Lourdes

Channel Newsasia: Authorities said Friday that flood waters were receding in southwestern France after claiming three lives and damaging the Catholic pilgrimage site Lourdes. "The flood's recession has been clearly confirmed," the prefect's office for the Pyrenees-Atlantiques region said in a statement, adding that water levels were expected to return to normal by Friday afternoon.

Many roads remained closed however and some residents were still unable to return to their homes. The floods this week sent water pouring into the religious sites at Lourdes, forcing thousands of tourists to be evacuated and suspending visits.

But fears the sites would all need to be closed for weeks were allayed on Thursday when officials said the town's celebrated grotto would be accessible to visitors within days. Lourdes, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a local peasant girl in 1858, is visited by six million people every year, with the numbers in July and August peaking at up to 40,000 a day.

Officials said 37 hotels in the town were badly damaged by the floods and would not re-open for several months. The grotto should re-open on Friday afternoon but the underground Basilica of Saint Pius X, which can normally host up to 25,000 pilgrims, remained partly flooded, with its floor covered by 30 to 40 centimetres (12 to 16 inches) of mud....

A mosaic at the Rosary Basilica in Lourdes, shot by Fczarnowski, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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