Paris on flooding high alert as swollen River Seine set to rise further
Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes along the swollen Seine as the river kept rising after it burst its banks in Paris, engulfing scenic quays and forcing part of the Louvre museum to close to protect its priceless art works from floodwaters.
The river had reached 5.75 metres (19.9 feet) at 8 pm local time on Saturday, more than four metres above its normal height, and was set to hit a peak on Sunday night at around six metres.
Seemingly interminable rains in France over the past couple of weeks caused the river to rise inexorably, leading city authorities to shut down all boat traffic on the Seine in Paris, keeping tourists off the capital’s famed sightseeing Bateaux Mouches.
"Due to the spread of flooding to different tributaries, the level of the Seine in Paris will continue rising again on the weekend," said Vigicrues, the national flooding alert agency, noting that the peak would last for about 10 hours before the waters slowly begin to recede.
Several Paris suburbs were already under water on Saturday, forcing some residents to take to boats to get around.
More than 650 people have been evacuated from their homes in the greater Paris region, and flooding has left around 1,400 people without electricity.
France flooding alert
Tourists in central Paris took photos of water-covered embankments on Saturday, as the river rose ever closer to the top of the walls that protect the Louvre, the world’s most visited museum, on the right bank and the Musée d’Orsay on the left bank.
The Louvre took the precaution earlier in the week of closing its Islamic arts wing, which lies on a lower level than the rest of the giant museum and is more at risk of flooding.
Leaks had already started to appear in some basements of central residential buildings along the Seine on Friday, and restaurants and cafés on the riverbank were forced to close.
One of the city’s main suburban train lines, the RER C, which runs parallel to the river for much of its route through central Paris, has been shut since Wednesday, and some of the roads that run alongside the Seine have also been closed after flooding.
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Paris police headquarters posted on Twitter dramatic footage shot by a drone of the extent of the flooding along the river in the city centre, from the Alma bridge near the Eiffel tower to the Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame and the City Hall.
#CrueSeine à Paris : les images vues du ciel filmées par les services de la @prefpolice à l'aide d'un drone pic.twitter.com/q5N9j8PPbN
— Préfecture de police (@prefpolice) January 26, 2018
The video begins with the drone zooming in on the statue of a "Zouave"- a soldier from one of France’s African regiments that took part in the 19th century Crimean War – that stands below the Alma bridge.
The statue has for decades been Parisians’ favourite way of measuring the rising Seine when floodwaters strike.
The official depth of the Seine in Paris is measured from a point on the Austerlitz, but locals prefer to judge flooding by how high the water rises up around the Zouave. On Saturday it was lapping at his waist.
In normal times, the river measures about 1.5 metres (4 feet, 11 inches) on the Austerlitz scale.
But even after is predicted peak on Sunday of around six metres, it will still be below the 6.1 metres reached in floods in 2016, and well below the 8.6 meters hit in record floods in 1910.
Drier weather is forecast for the week ahead, and the Vigicrues flood alert agency has lowered its warning level from orange to yellow in several areas upstream of the capital.
But even once the water levels start to recede, it is likely to be a slow process, since much of the ground in northern France is already waterlogged.