30,000 evacuated in Lourdes bomb scare
Up to 30,000 pilgrims, including the sick and elderly, had to be evacuated from Lourdes on Sunday following a bomb scare which later turned out to be a hoax.
The pilgrims were gathered at the shrine in southern France for the Feast of the Assumption.
The bomb threat forced the temporary evacuation of the shrine after a man called local police and said four explosive devices had been planted at the shrine.
Police later gave the all-clear for the shrine to reopen for a 5pm procession after a search by bomb disposal teams with sniffer dogs searched the various shrines and found no signs of explosives.
Regional police chief, Rene Bidal told the AFP news agency, “The call came in around noon from a telephone box from a man with a strong Mediterranean accent. We had to take the threat seriously.”
The Feast of the Assumption celebrates the Virgin Mary’s ascension to heaven.
There are 22 places of worship at Lourdes, including the Basilica of Immaculate Conception, where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared to Bernadette Soubirous.
A freshwater spring was found in a cave at the site of the visions. Many pilgrims travel to Lourdes to bathe and hope for a cure for their illnesses.
The small village of just 16,000 permanent residents plays host to around six million visitors every year.