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Environment

Woman dies in French floods as Lourdes grotto remains submerged

media The entrance to the Lourdes grotto during last year's floods Reuters

A woman in her 70s was drowned after being swept away by floods in south-western France overnight. The shrine at the Catholic pilgrimage site at Lourdes remained closed on Wednesday morning but officials said that the waters were beginning to subside on Wednesday morning.

Fresh thunderstorms hit much of France on Wedesday morning, adding to the flooding in towns and villages in the foothills of the Pyrenees this week.

The Lourdes grotto, which was also flooded last year, was under 1.40 metres of water and the sanctuaries' own web-TV carried video of a muddy torrent submerging the entrance, trees being carried through the town centre and umbrella-toting nuns.

Nearly 2,000 people have been moved out of flood-hit areas in the region and a piligrimage of 3,000 people scheduled for Wednesday was cancelled.

In Pierrefitte-Nestelas, uphill from Lourdes, a woman in her 70s was swept away when she and her husband tried to escape from their car, which had been caught up in the flood. Emergency services rescued the husband.

The village of Saint-Béat was particularly badly hit, with 1.80 metres of water raging through its streets carrying away cars and camper-vans.

The Gave de Pau river, which passes through Lourdes, began to subside Wednesday, although the water was still very high, local officials said, adding that they would turn their intention to major damage that has been reported.

Schools remained closed on Wednesday and many roads were cut, including the N125, leading to the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, which is now under flood alert.

Storms were expected to move west on Wednesday and high winds were expected on the coast.

Elsewhere in France:

  • There was a flood warning for the Arc river in the Savoie department;
  • Storms drenched Paris and the surrounding Ile de France region early in the morning with a warning that there could be more to come during the day.

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