Hundreds of pilgrims, including many who are sick or disabled, have been evacuated from the historic town of Lourdes in south west France, as a result of flooding.
The grotto where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared before peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 is just one of the holy sites that has affected, and is now under around one metre (pictured above).
The Gave de Pau river, which runs through Lourdes, burst its banks after days of rain - and the wet weather is forecast to continue into next week.
Fortunately, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (pictured below), which is the most revered building in Lourdes, is undamaged.
Thierry Castillo, the custodian of the Lourdes sanctuary, told the Daily Mail
: "The space in front of the grotto is entirely flooded, with the altar under water. There are torrents of mud. The damage will cost thousands."
English tour guide Phil Lomas added: "It is a very worrying situation - everybody has been told to evacuate and get on to higher ground. There are real safety concerns here, especially for those in wheelchairs, or who are otherwise disabled. The police and other emergency services are leading the evacuation, along with priests and other clergy."
reports that two campsites have also been cleared, and several roads are closed. Buses have taken tourists from all hotels in the lower town to a conference centre and sports complex as the holy sites are expected to remain closed for several days.
Around six million people visit Lourdes every year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Visitors go there to pray and people suffering from illness or disability claim to have been miraculously cured by the town's spring water.
The flooding has been described as the worst for 25 years.
Click on the image below for some special places to stay in France...
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- Maison des Algues, Ile de Re, Charente-Maritime
A modern whitewashed hotel on the outskirts of Rivedoux Plage, Maison des Algues is "impeccably maintained", says Sawdays. There's a small cricket pitch, terraces, gardens and an outdoor pool with free bike hire for exploring the local area and its white sand beaches. From 125 Euros per room, including breakfast. For details, visit <a href="http://www.sawdays.co.uk/search/display.php?BookID=fh8237" target="_blank">sawdays.co.uk</a> or call +33 (0)5 46 68 01 23. </p>
<a href="http://www.sawdays.co.uk/search/display.php?BookID=fh8237"> </a></p>
- Maison de Plumes, Pas-de-Calais
A mere hop over the channel, the beautiful countryside of Pas de Calais is perfect for a weekend away. Check out the wild, "funky and fabulous" Maison de Plumes: think soft gold walls and glossy black woodwork, with bedrooms designed in the pattern birds' plumage (hence the name). From €99 per room per night, including breakfast. For more details, visit <a href="http://www.sawdays.co.uk " target="_blank">sawdays.co.uk</a><a href="http://www.sawdays.co.uk/search/display.php?BookID=fh8205" target="_blank"> </a>or call +33 (0)3 21 41 47 85.</p>
- La Maison d'Ulysse, Uzes, Languedoc
Hidden just behind a small sleepy village square, this fifth century converted silk farm is full of surprises. A tranquil Mediterranean garden and vast bedrooms, a shaded courtyard and pool are just some of the treats to enjoy. From €220 per room per night, including breakfast For more details, visit <a href="http://www.sawdays.co.uk" target="_blank">sawdays.co.uk</a> or call +33 (0)4 66 81 38 41.</p>
- La Vinotiere, Brittany
This quirky 16th century merchant's house with its own s<em>alon de the, </em>exposed stone walls and customised furniture sits on the lovely Finistiere coast. Nearby, Le Conquet bustles with fisherman and boats and a local market. Kids wil love the bunk bedded room designed like a ship's cabin. From €60 per room per night, room only. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.sawdays.co.uk/search/display.php?BookID=fh8158">sawdays.co.uk</a> or call +33 (0)2 98 89 17 79.</p>
- Instants d'Absolu Ecolodge, Auvergne
Peace and serenity reign supreme at this remote 17th century farmhouse-cum-eco lodge on the edge of the Lac du Pecher. It's a place for nature lovers, beautifully decorated with "gigantic views". From €140 per room per night, half-board. Visit <a href="http://www.sawdays.co.uk/search/display.php?BookID=fh8312" target="_blank">sawdays.co.uk</a> for more, or call +33 47120 8309.<a 20="" 33="" 4="" 71="" 83="" href="http://www.sawdays.co.uk/" span=""><!--
- Chez Le Fatien, Beune, Burgundy
This 300-year-old vine workers' house has been revived with no expenses spared: think original 17th century fireplaces, snow-white linen and handsome oil paintings. And the beautiful village of Beune, with its medieval streets, is just a stone's throw away. From €220 per room per night, including breakfast. Visit <a href="http://www.sawdays.co.uk/">sawdays.co.uk</a> or call +33 (0)3 80 22 82 84.</p>
- Chateau de la Motte, Noailly, Loire
<span class="s1"><span class="s2">A fairy-tale like castle with much to enchant, you'll love the sprawling grounds, stained glass decor and deep sofas. Oh, and it's is also singled out for its 'incredible' food. </span></span>From €88 per room per night, includes breakfast – <a href="http://www.sawdays.co.uk/">sawdays.co.uk</a> +33 (0)4 77 66 64 60.</p>
- Coleur Lavande, Le Thor, Vaucluse
Peeping through lavender shutters at sweeping landscaped gardens, this rejuvenated Provencal house offers all sorts of delights, including its own natural rock pool for taking a cool dip, a masseur in the garden, an olive grove and a chicken run. From €180 per room per night, includes breakfast – for more information, visit <a href="http://www.sawdays.co.uk/">sawdays.co.uk</a> +33 (0)6 30 00 62 04.</p>
- Chateau de Labro, Aveyron
In a large park with vast pastures and woods, this 16th century chateau boasts four-poster beds, a large pool and even a treehouse room complete with chandeliers. From €110 per room per night, room only. For more details, visit <a href="http://www.sawdays.co.uk/">sawdays.co.uk</a> +33 (0)5 65 67 90 62.</p>
- L'Hotel Particulier, Bordeaux, Gironde
This classic baroque 19th-century townhouse is hidden away off a bustling street: with its quiet lawned quadrangle, opulent boudoirs and ornate fireplaces and Philip Stark bathrooms, it promises to provide a welcome retreat from the buzzing Bordeaux atmosphere when you need to relax. From 160 Euros per room per night, room only. Visit <a href="http://www.sawdays.co.uk/search/display.php?BookID=FH8327&PlaceID=PL101262&returnURL=/search/listing.php?where%3Dparticulier%26amp%3bseq%3D483%26RecFrom%3D0" target="_blank">sawdays.co.uk</a> or call + 33 (0)5 57 88 28 80.</p>