French floods claim second victim, close Lourdes for second day
Flash floods in southwestern France claimed two elderly victims in the space of 24 hours and forced the inundated grotto at Lourdes to remain closed for a second day, officials said Wednesday.
A woman in her 70s was washed away overnight by the floodwaters after getting out of her submerged car at Saint Beat near Lourdes, the local prefecture said in a statement.
She and her husband had been evacuated from their home but were heading back to collect personal effects when they were trapped by the water. Her husband was rescued by firefighters.
That tragedy was followed on Wednesday afternoon by the death of a 75-year-old man, who was also swept to his death after the flood waters at Luz-Saint-Sauveur in the Pyrenees turned a local stream into a torrent.
The region has been lashed by unseasonal storms since Tuesday and more than 2,000 people have had to be evacuated from their homes, some of them by helicopter.
The impact of the storms, which have followed an exceptionally wet spring across much of France, was underlined when a bridge at Saint-Laurent-de-Neste was washed away by a tributary of the Garonne river.
The shrine at the Catholic pilgrimage site of Lourdes, where the Virgin Mary reportedly appeared to a peasant girl in 1858 and whose water many believe has curative powers, remained closed on Wednesday.
Tourists in the town were relocated from their hotels to higher ground.
In 2012, the Lourdes shrines were closed after flash floods that caused hundreds of thousands of euros in damage.
Lourdes attracts millions of visitors every year. The Catholic church recognises 68 miracles linked to it and many disabled or sick people go there to pray for a cure.
© 2013 AFP