Lourdes damage put at hundreds of thousands of euros
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Floods have caused hundreds of thousands of euros-worth of damage to the sanctuaries at Lourdes, visited by millions of Catholics every year. As the waters subsided Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI paid tribute to the town at St Peters in Rome.
"Let us turn to the Virgin Mary with a thought for Lourdes, the victim of flash floods which inundated the grotto where the Madonna had appeared," the Pope said at a special mass where he named seven new saints, including French Jesuit Jacques Berthieu who was killed by nationalists fighting French rule in Madagascar in the 1890s.
In Lourdes Thierry Castillo, the custodian of the sanctuaries, put the damage at hundreds of thousands of euros.
There has been “serious damage”, he said, and power was cut off when two tree trunks smashed into the hydro-electric unit that supplies the sanctuaries. They also damaged to pedestrian walkways.
The sanctuaries’ income has suffered from a decline in donations and contributions, leaving a one-million-euro deficit in the 30-million-euro budget in 2011.
About 80 firefighters began pumping water out of the sanctuaries and the areas near the Gave de Pau river on Sunday, while council workers cleared debris from the streets.
Forecasters said further floods were unlikely, although they warned that more rain was heading for south-west France from Spain.