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Woman drowned in raging floods

Pilgrims evacuated as Lourdes grotto under water – with Ile-de-France residents warned of new thunderstorm

18 June 2013

A WOMAN has been drowned in floods that swept through towns and villages in the Pyrenees, flooding the grottoes at Lourdes and seen 2,000 people evacuated – including nearly 1,000 pilgrims.

Residents in Paris and Ile-de-France have also been warned of thunderstorms today – with the entire north-east of France on orange alert for the storms.

Last night very heavy rainfall plus high floodwaters from snowmelt in the high mountains combined to push the Gave de Pau river to exceptional levels and left the main grotto at the Sanctuaires de Lourdes under 1.40m of water.

Both Hautes-Pyrénées and Pyrénées-Atlantiques departments were put on red alert for flooding yesterday afternoon and today with residents near the Gave de Pau in Lourdes, Pau and Orthez warned to stay indoors.

One couple who were driving home in Pierrefitte-Nestalas, upriver from Lourdes, were trapped when their car was hit by a wave of floodwater. They tried to get out of the car and the woman, in her 70s, was swept away by the water and drowned. Her husband was trapped against the car by the water and later rescued by pompiers.

Floodwaters started to fall last night, but the water is now flowing further downstream into Pyrénées-Atlantiques, with warnings also going out on other rivers in Landes. In Toulouse, the council is expecting water to reach the 2.40m mark on Pont Neuf – which is the danger level.

Roads were closed by the floodwaters and nearly 1,000 households were without drinking water.

In Lourdes, pilgrims had to be evacuated from hotels and one tour of 3,000 people from Arras was cancelled before they set off.

This morning the Ile-de-France and Paris was put on orange alert for heavy rainfall during six hours thunderstorms expected to cross the area today. Heavy rains plus hail and violent gusting winds are expected.

All departments north and east of Vienne are on orange alert this morning, a total of 39 departments.

See the floods at Lourdes

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