The sanctuary of Lourdes flooded, in Lourdes, southwestern France, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. French rescue services and police are evacuating hundreds of pilgrims from hotels threatened by floodwaters from a rain-swollen river in the Roman Catholic shrine town of Lourdes. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)
PARIS (AP) — Heavy floods in southwest France have forced the closure of the Catholic pilgrimage site in Lourdes and the evacuation of pilgrims from nearby hotels.
Floodwaters swirled Wednesday in the grotto where nearly 6 million believers from around the world, many gravely ill, come every year seeking miracles and healing. It has been a major pilgrimage site since a French girl's vision of the Virgin Mary there in 1858.
Lourdes Mayor Jean-Pierre Artiganave said on BFM television that the site will not reopen until safety can be assured. Rescue services are evacuating hundreds of people from nearby hotels.
Heavy rains around the region inundated town centers and prompted road closures. The interior minister is heading to Lourdes later Wednesday.
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