Heavy flooding in southwest France resulted in two dead, hundreds evacuated and the temporary closure of the Catholic pilgrimage site at Lourdes.
According to ABC News, the famous grotto at Lourdes was hit by muddy floodwaters resulting from heavy rainfall in the region yesterday. The grotto is a major pilgrimage site for roughly 6 million believers each year, who come from all over the world looking for miraculous healing and spiritual rejuvenation.
Mathias Terrier, a spokesperson for the pilgrimage site at Lourdes, said that waters reached around 5 feet deep in the grotto. He also indicated that the site would not reopen before the end of the week.
Rescue workers evacuated hundreds of people from hotels in the area during the flooding. Logistically, this has proven to be problematic, given the number of pilgrims suffering from physical ailments, ABC News said.
“We need more reinforcements in the area to face these floods, which are really exceptional,” Interior Minister Manuel Valls said while in Lourdes on Wednesday. According to Valls, continuous rainfall and snowmelt only exacerbated the situation throughout the region.
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So far, two deaths have been reported. Reuters says the first occurred in the town of Pierrefitte-Nestalas, when a 70-year-old woman perished after trying to get out of her vehicle during the flooding. The second, confirmed by Valls on BFM television, was a man who died on Wednesday after being swept away in flash floods.
The sanctuary at Lourdes has been a world-famous pilgrimage site since 1858, when a 15-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous reportedly witnessed an apparition of the Virgin Mary there.
The official website for the sanctuary at Lourdes has a video showing some of the flooding throughout the day. Watch the clip below.