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Woman dies in flooding that closed Lourdes site

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-06-19

Heavy rain in south-western France that forced the closure of the sanctuary at Catholic pilgrimage destination Lourdes has claimed the life of a 70-year-old woman, who was caught in a raging torrent.

A 70-year-old woman was killed Wednesday as a result of flooding that forced the closure of the main sanctuary at Lourdes, a Catholic pilgrimage destination in south-western France.

The unnamed woman died as she tried to get out of her car which was caught in a raging torrent at the village of Pierrefitte-Nestalas where the Gave de Pau river, which flows through nearby Lourdes, burst its banks.

Late on Tuesday, local authorities shut the sanctuary ringing the cave at Lourdes, whose spring water many Catholics believe can miraculously cure illness.

Approximately 200 people were also evacuated due to the severe weather.

The measure came a day after heavy rain and even some snowfall in the area led to rivers throughout the region flowing well above their normal levels, cutting off some roads.

"The Sanctuaries are closed apart from the Upper Basilica," a Gothic church above the grotto, the local prefecture of the Haute-Garonne area said in a statement.

"We are very vigilant although for the present the situation is not catastrophic."
In 2012, the Lourdes shrines were closed after flash floods caused hundreds of thousands of euros in damage.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-06-19

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