• France's news in English
 
Lourdes faces 'economic disaster' after floods
Debris strewn across the sanctuary at Lourdes. Photo: Pascal Pavani/AFP

Lourdes faces 'economic disaster' after floods

Published: 20 Jun 2013 12:03 GMT+02:00
Updated: 20 Jun 2013 19:10 GMT+02:00

France's president François Hollande said on Thursday that a state of natural disaster would be declare 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.

'We cannot lie about the situation, everything is destroyed'

“It’s catastrophic. We cannot see how we could reopen in acceptable conditions in the weeks to come,” the sanctuary's communications director Mathias Terrier told The Local on Thursday.

“We cannot lie about the situation. Everything is broken, everything is destroyed. We do not know what to do.”

The Basilica Saint-Pie X under water. (Photo Twitter - @JLuzenko)

Facing a huge clean-up bill the site has lodged an appeal for charitable donations to help them cover the cost.

“We do not have an exact figure on the cost but it will run into millions of euros,” Terrier said.

“Without help from everyone around the world, there is no way we could open like before.”

The website for Lourdes sanctuary has details of how charitable donations can be made.

With the sanctuaries to remain closed, the knock-on effects for businesses in the town will be also be severe, not least for hotels.

Of the town’s 220 hotels, around 60 were damaged to varying degrees by the floods.

Damaris Stevens who runs the St. Catherine Hotel, had to take refuge on the second floor of her establishment as the flood waters rose.

She told The Local this week that for her the summer season is already over.

“We had only just reopened in April after the floods last year and now will have to remain closed for the foreseeable future.

"It will take a long time for the insurance companies to pay out.  Some people have not been compensated yet after the floods last year.

“The tourist industry has already been hit hard by the current economic climate and no one will have been left unscathed by these floods,” she added.

France's Ecology Minister Delphine Batho told French daily Le Parisien on Thursday that lessons need to be learnt from the floods in order to prevent further disasters in the future.

"I have proposed to the Prime Minister to revise the national plan of adaptation to climate change because it is certain that global warming will only increase the likelihood of this type  phenomenon occurring again in France. We have to be better prepared," the minister said.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Ligue 1 round-up
Marseille win to ensure top spot at Christmas
Marseille coach Marcelo Bielsa celebrates after his team scores against Lille on Sunday. Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

Marseille win to ensure top spot at Christmas

Marseille will end the year on top of Ligue 1 after beating Lille on Sunday. Marcelo Bielsa's team finish the first half of the season three points ahead of rivals PSG and two ahead of Lyon. Here's a round-up of all the latest action from Ligue 1 READ  

France braces for doctors' Christmas strike
ER doctors are due to kick off the protest on Monday. Photo: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP

France braces for doctors' Christmas strike

France is bracing for a major strike over the Christmas period by overworked doctors, including casualty staff and specialists, unhappy about a new health bill. READ  

Driver shouting 'Allahu Akbar' rams pedestrians
Police examine evidence after a driver ploughed into pedestrians in Dijon. Photo: Arnaud Finistre/AFP

Driver shouting 'Allahu Akbar' rams pedestrians

A driver shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest") ploughed into pedestrians in eastern France Sunday, injuring 11 of them, just a day after a man yelling the same words was killed in an attack on police officers. READ  

French favour end of force-fed foie gras
Photo: Kevorks Djansezian/Getty Images/ AFP

French favour end of force-fed foie gras

Almost one out of every two French people now favour banning the force-feeding of geese and ducks to produce the national delicacy, foie gras, a survey showed. READ  

Journo sparks outcry with 'insular Muslim' jibe
Photo: Francois Guillot/AFP

Journo sparks outcry with 'insular Muslim' jibe

Prominent French journalist Eric Zemmour was back in the spotlight Saturday after being barred by a news channel for saying Muslims were elbowing French people out of the suburbs. READ  

Russia warns France over Mistral delay
Photo: Jean-Sebastien Evrard/AFP

Russia warns France over Mistral delay

Russia will gladly take back the money it paid for French Mistral-class warships whose handover has been delayed by concerns over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, a deputy defence minister said Saturday. READ  

French cardinal named as papal back up
Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP

French cardinal named as papal back up

Pope Francis on Saturday named French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran the new camerlengo, or chamberlain, charged with temporarily taking over the pontiff's duties if he resigns or dies. READ  

French police kill knife-wielding man
Photo: Guillaume Souvant/AFP

French police kill knife-wielding man

French police on Saturday shot dead a man who attacked them with a knife in a police station while shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("God is great" in Arabic), a source said. READ  

French bus driver faked assault in paid leave ploy
The town hall in Goussainville. Photo: P.Poschadel/Wikimedia

French bus driver faked assault in paid leave ploy

A 23-year-old bus driver in suburban Paris was handed a six month suspended prison sentence Friday for staging his own assault in a ploy to obtain paid sick leave. READ  

French fishmonger nabbed in naked display
A French fishmonger (unrelated to the story). File photo: Pascal Pochard Casabianca/AFP

French fishmonger nabbed in naked display

A French fishmonger in women's lingerie was left with a lot of explaining to do after being arrested for exposing himself to holiday shoppers through his store window. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Santa bikers ride through Paris for orphans
Culture
Top 10 tackiest 'Made in France' gifts
Gallery
10 traditions that make a French Christmas
Culture
GALLERY: The French language's fixation with 'les Anglais'
Society
So what does the web tell us about the French in the year 2014
Society
Have the French fallen out of love with Christmas?
National
Immigration in France: Hollande hits back at the scaremongers
Culture
What's on: 10 things to do in France before Christmas
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
National
Muslims rule France in 2022: The bad boy of French literature is back
Gallery
There are so many things that claim to be French but aren't. Here are 12.
National
Crazy cat stories: Moggie returns after 1,200km trek across France
National
Tea sets for boys? French feminists protest 'gendered' Christmas presents
National
Jacques Chirac's 'head' - The perfect place to hide 1.5 kilos of weed
Gallery
Myths debunked: 11 things you (wrongly) presumed about France
National
Prices are tumbling but the property ladder is increasingly out of reach for the French
Education
IN IMAGES: French universities 'in ruin'. The students have the evidence
National
Life's about to get a lot cheaper for Paris commuters. Or is it?
Gallery
Ten dos and don'ts for partying with the French this Christmas
National
Some famous French fine wines are under threat from high speed trains
National
VIDEO: Homeless bodybuilder turns the streets of Paris into his gym
Business & Money
Noble Prize for Economics: Six things to know about Jean Tirole
Culture
Nobel Literature Prize: Ten things to know about Patrick Modiano
Gallery
Looking for a good Christmas market in France? Here's our top 10
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The top 15 new inventions to come out of France
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Gallery
Miss France Farmer: The contest to find a 'real French beauty'
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Lyon's spectacular festival of lights dazzles once again
Gallery
IN IMAGES: Ten French Bond girls through the ages
National
Outrage forces French city to scrap yellow triangle ID cards for homeless
Gallery
Who does Christmas better - The French or Anglos? We decide.
National
All you need to know about the new French Bond girl Léa Seydoux
International
'My iPod's broken' - French jihadists moan about lack of home comforts
National
Race you to the top of the Eiffel Tower. No seriously, I'll race you.
National
And what if Mona Lisa was really a slave from China?
Opinion
Why company bosses in France have just about had enough
National
What impact did a 'giant butt plug' in Paris have on sales of sex toys?
Travel
National Geographic's top world destination for 2015 is in France.
Society
French babies switched at birth: Families seek €12 million damages
National
Why are so many French police officers taking their own lives?
Society
Immigration in France: Ten numbers that matter
Sponsored Article
Win a €250 voucher for your Christmas list
National
Sarko is back in the ring: Did he ever really leave it?
National
IN IMAGES: Yet more fatal floods hit the south of France
Gallery
Forget tourism and wine, here are 10 OTHER ways France leads the world
Sponsored Article
Live like a local - anywhere in the world
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se