• 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

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
Plane with 51 French on board 'crashes in Mali'
The latest map released by officials in Burkina Faso, showing the presumed site where the plane is believed to have come down. Photo: Airport of Ougadougou

Plane with 51 French on board 'crashes in Mali'

An Air Algérie-operated flight carrying 116 people on board, including 51 French nationals, is believed to have crashed in Mali on Thursday. There have been unconfirmed reports that the wreckage of the plane has been found. READ  

French cops find arsenal on London-bound bus
French border police find an arsenal of weapons on board a Eurolines bus. Photo: Sludge Gulper/FLickr

French cops find arsenal on London-bound bus

French border police seized a small arsenal of firearms and ammunition they found stowed aboard a bus that was passing through France on its way to London, French media reported on Thursday. Officers are still looking for the owner of the weapons. READ  

France is among EU's biggest public spenders
France is one of Europe's biggest spenders, but its not getting great services. Photo: Pascal Pavani/AFP

France is among EU's biggest public spenders

The French government is the third biggest public spender in Europe, yet the quality of the health, pension and education services its paying for are significantly lower than other EU countries. A new government study explains why. READ  

Gaza crisis
France to release €11m in aid for Palestinians
An injured Palestinian is rushed to hospital in Gaza for treatment. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP

France to release €11m in aid for Palestinians

BREAKING NEWS: France is to hand over €11 million worth of aid for Palestinians in Gaza, President François Hollande announced on Thursday morning after meeting with several NG0s at the Elysée Palace. READ  

Report - Jobs for robots
'Half of jobs in France' under threat from robots
Half of the jobs in France could soon be carried out by robots. Better think about retraining. Shutterstock

'Half of jobs in France' under threat from robots

It might be a good time to think about a career change, because according to a report from a leading Brussels think-tank, half of the jobs currently being done in France could be taken over by robots in the next 20 years. READ  

Tête-à-tête - Part 2
'Foreigners pay taxes so they should get the vote'
"This is not about halal meat in schools, it's about democracy" Should non-EU foreigners get the right to vote in France? Photo: Marc Lagneau/Flickr

'Foreigners pay taxes so they should get the vote'

In the second part of our tête-a-tête on whether foreigners in France should be given the vote, we hear from one of the leaders of the campaign calling for it to happen, who insists "it's about democracy, not bringing in halal meals in schools". READ  

IN IMAGES: Paris protest in support of Palestinians
Members of a Jewish anti-zionist group joined protesters on Wednesday to call for an end to Israel's offensive in Gaza. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard

IN IMAGES: Paris protest in support of Palestinians

Up to 25,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Paris on Wednesday to protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Here's a selection of images from the rally, that took place amid tight security. READ  

UBS bank 'charged with tax fraud' in France
UBS bank has been charged with tax fraud in France, sources say, for helping French nationals hide money in Swiss accounts. Photo: AFP

UBS bank 'charged with tax fraud' in France

Swiss bank UBS was on Wednesday charged with tax fraud in Paris for allegedly helping rich French clients to hide money in Switzerland, a judicial source said. READ  

Paris: Thousands march in pro-Palestinian demo
Thousands of protesters hit the streets of Paris to oppose Israel's Gaza incursion. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

Paris: Thousands march in pro-Palestinian demo

Thousands marched through Paris on Wednesday to denounce Israel's ongoing assault on Gaza amid tight security. The demo passed off peacefully with many protesters expressing their anger with the French government for not doing enough to halt the bloodshed in the Middle East. READ  

Lawmakers back redrawn map of France
French lawmakers have approved a redrawn map of France. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Lawmakers back redrawn map of France

Legislation that would redraw the map of France won overwhelming support on Wednesday from the country's lower house, the National Assembly. It's part of a plan reduce France's costly and cumbersome bureaucracy. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Why you should think twice about feeding stray cats in France
National
And the new redrawn map of France will look like...?
Politics
Is French President François Hollande about to tie the knot?
International
Want a long-term visa? You may soon have to take a French test
International
Votes for foreigners: 'France would be giving up its sovereignty'
National
VIDEO: Stuntman jumps onto a moving Paris metro... and survives
Gallery
Forget 'faire l'amour', here's 15 top French expressions for making love
National
Report - 'Anti-Semitic' riots in France: 'We may leave for Israel'
National
Paris Plages: Here's 10 reasons to head down to the city beach
International
'Mont Blanc is like Disneyland. It's time to end the free-for-all'
Travel
Fancy climbing Mont Blanc? Here's 10 reasons to think twice about it
Gallery
Looking for a weird museum in Paris? Here's 10 that are worth a visit
National
Clear your head: Eight tips for buying wine in a French supermarket
National
'Don't blame the labour market for France's unemployment woes!'
National
Job applicants in France: Be prepared to send in an anonymous CV
Sport
'Bouligans' to booze bans: Ten things you need to know about pétanque
Gallery
Driving in France: How to stay out of trouble on the roads
Travel
Ten essential free phone apps for a visit to Paris
Gallery
Like cycling? Love France? See the top ten best cycling routes in France
International
'They think beer is a vegetable': What the French really think of Germans
National
Sarkozy's dream of a 2017 comeback is not dead yet
Gallery
Ten reasons why France is better than Germany (we're not talking football)
Gallery
Paris in Summer: Ten things to do on a shoestring
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
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