PARIS, June 19 Heavy flooding in southwestern
France killed a woman and forced the closure of the Roman
Catholic pilgrimage site at Lourdes on Wednesday, less than a
year after flash floods caused millions of euros of damage to
Video footage showed frothy water a metre (3 feet) deep
swirling around the Lourdes grotto, a hillside site where the
Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to a peasant girl in 1858
and Catholicism's most-visited miracle shrine.
Authorities had to evacuate several hundred pilgrims from
hotels and camping sites after melting snow and summer storms
caused the Gave de Pau river to burst its banks late on Tuesday,
a Lourdes local official told Reuters.
The 70-year-old woman died on Tuesday evening while trying
to get out of her flood-trapped car in the town of
Pierrefitte-Nestalas, the regional prosecutor's office said.
Water levels were slowly receding on Wednesday. Interior
Minister Manuel Valls was due to visit the area, in the
foothills of the Pyrenees, later.
About 6 million pilgrims visit Lourdes annually, many to
bathe in the grotto's normally tranquil spring waters and pray
for healing at its altar, which had to be restored after it was
damaged by flash floods in October last year.
(Reporting by Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Catherine Bremer and