• France edition
 
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

After flood waters devastated the Catholic shrine at Lourdes in south west France this week, the mayor says his town is facing 'economic disaster,'. The French president said the region would be declared a natural disaster in the coming days.

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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Le Pen's unholy alliance hoping to destroy the EU
France's National Front party is trying to build a European far-right coalition. Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP

Le Pen's unholy alliance hoping to destroy the EU

France’s National Front party is trying to unite a multi-nation, far-right alliance ahead of next month’s crucial European elections. The distinctly anti-EU mob would include Nazi sympathisers, anti-Muslim leaders and fervent nationalists. We take a closer look. READ () »

Chinese crackdown hurts French booze sales
A Chinese crackdown on leaders posh gifts and lavish meals has hurt French booze sales. Photo: Mehdi Fedouach/AFP

Chinese crackdown hurts French booze sales

French booze sales in China have taken a hit after party leaders cracked down on extravagant gift-giving and sumptuous feasts in the wake of several stinging corruption scandals. READ () »

Blood on cloth didn't belong to King Louis XVI
A gourd said to hold the blood of France's last king, Louis XVI, in fact doesn't. Photo: File

Blood on cloth didn't belong to King Louis XVI

Scientists say a morbid souvenir from the execution of France's last king, a cloth dipped in his blood, is a fake. The long controversial keepsake has previously been verified as containing the blood of Louis XVI. READ () »

The view from La Rue
Parisians really are rude to tourists -  true or false?
Is the rude Parisian waiter more of a myth than a reality? We ask tourists visiting Paris to decide. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

Parisians really are rude to tourists - true or false?

Almost a year ago it seemed like stories of Parisians being rude to tourists would soon be a thing of the past, when city tourist chiefs published a guide on how to better welcome visitors. The Local took to the streets to see if tourists had noticed a difference. READ () »

France bids to cut EU's reliance on Russian gas
A view of the Russian gas giant Gazprom's recently built Adler thermal power plant. France wants to cut Europe's reliance on Russian gas. Photo: Yuri Kabodnov/AFP

France bids to cut EU's reliance on Russian gas

As the Ukraine crisis intensifes and threatens to divide Russia from the West, France and Poland made a joint call for a European-wide energy union that would help reduce dependence on Russian gas supplies. READ () »

Family pretend to be French to rob jewellers
Pretending to be French to rob a jewellers. That's a new one. Photo: Shutterstock

Family pretend to be French to rob jewellers

A family managed to steal €180,000 worth of jewellery from a plush shop in Milan’s Piazza del Duomo. Their modus operandi: pretending to be French to give off an air of sophistication. READ () »

Neo-Nazi Hitler party shocks French village
Scores of neo-Nazis descended on a tranquil French village. The local mayor had no idea what he had let himself in for. Photo: Scott Olsen/AFP

Neo-Nazi Hitler party shocks French village

The mayor of a small village in eastern France was forced to explain this week how he ended up giving the green light for a neo-Nazi party commemorating the 125th anniversiary of Hitler’s birth. The mayor said he presumed it was just going to be an ordinary birthday party. READ () »

One in five French workers is a civil servant
France's population of civil servants has continued to grow. Photo: Crowd.

One in five French workers is a civil servant

New data out this week shows France’s civil service has continued its nearly unbroken chain of growth since 1980. The figures, however, leave out a whole swath of people who are also on the government payroll. READ () »

French taxi wars: New plan to end bitter feud
A new proposal seeks to end the French taxi war. Photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP

French taxi wars: New plan to end bitter feud

An eagerly awaited series of proposed reforms were due out on Thursday aimed at ending the ongoing war between highly regulated taxi drivers and private hire car firms, which has wrought havoc on French roads. The proposals seek to make the rules fairer for both sides. READ () »

Ukraine crisis
France to send fighter jets to patrol Baltics
France is to send four fighter jets to patrol over the Baltics, in a show of solidarity as tension mounts of Russia's agression i nthe Ukraine. Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP

France to send fighter jets to patrol Baltics

France is sending four of its fighter jets to patrol over the Baltic states in a symbolic show of solidarity amid growing anxiety in the region over Russia's intervention in Ukraine. President François Hollande is also set to pay a visit to Georgia in the coming weeks. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
The view from La Rue: Are Parisians really that rude to tourists?
National
How to avoid a French wedding nightmare
Opinion
Reader Rants: Why sacked French ministers deserve no pity
Gallery
How well do you know your French text message lingo?
National
Divorced from reality? French plan for puppy custody laws
Travel
'Burgundy is for wine not wind': Will wind farms ruin famous wine region?
National
Why does France have a record number of people behind bars?
Society
VIDEO: Take a look inside Paris’s first luxury hotel for cats
Education
French parents are the most laidback about their kids' education. True?
Tech
What do French TV viewers complain about the most? Yes it's English
Business & Money
French tax declarations: The key points to remember
Gallery
French slang: Everyday words you need to know (but use cautiously)
Advertisement:
National
Paris cops told to ‘purge’ Roma from posh neighbourhood
International
VIDEO: ‘Anti-French’ Cadillac ad sparks anger in France. See why.
Features
Buying property in France? Here's 10 things you need to think about
National
What will the future map of France look like? The answer lies within.
Politics
'The 27 French regions aren't the problem, it's the 36,000 towns'
Culture
Ex underage call girl Zahia picked to embody Marie Antoinette
Gallery
Buying a house in France? Ten things you need to think about
National
France bans work emails after 6pm! Sadly it's not quite true.
Opinion
Reader Rants: Why don't the French do charity? Is it down to taxes?
Society
VIDEO: The Paris zoo is back but this time the animals are in charge
National
This will be the most expensive road in France - Only €1.66bn for 12km!
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
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 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