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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pilgrims evacuated as French floods hit Lourdes shrine

20 October 2012 

The altar at the grotto is now under water 

Hundreds of Roman Catholic pilgrims have been evacuated from the sanctuary of Lourdes in France after heavy flooding in the area.

The Gave de Pau river burst its banks after days of rain, flooding campsites around the shrine and parts of the southern city itself.

Lourdes is famous for what many Roman Catholics believe was a vision of the Virgin Mary by a local girl in 1858.

Millions of pilgrims from around the world visit the shrine each year.
'Worst in 40 years'

More than 450 pilgrims, including the sick and disabled, were evacuated from the area by Saturday, local officials say.

The water now is about a metre (three feet) deep in front of the grotto where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared, covering the altar.

However, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception itself - situated on higher ground - has not suffered any damage, officials say. (...)

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