After me comes the flood: Paris on alert, tourist sites along the Seine evacuated

Maria Sergeeva
January 26, 2018

Non-stop rain in the French capital has led the Seine and Marne rivers to rise and approach record levels, while rats are being flushed out of sewers in many parts of the city. The river is expected to rise farther until Saturday out of its banks through this weekend despite northeastern France catching a break from heavy rain.

This week, the “city of lights”, "la ville Lumière"looks more like a city of water. On Tuesday, during Paris's annual spring fashion show, the river Seine started overspilling its banks and gushing into neighboring streets as a result of weeks of rain.

The water level reached about 4.9 meters (about 16 feet) and is expected to peak at just over six meters (about 19.5 feet) Saturday, said Colombe Brossel, a deputy mayor of Paris. The river’s normal level is about two meters (about 6.5 feet).

Rainfall totals have been double the normal amount this winter in the city, France’s most visited museum, the Louvre, which sits beside the river, made the decision on Wednesday to close the lower level of the Department of Arts of the Islam as a precaution until at least Saturday.

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But the Louvre is better prepared since the flooding of June 2016, when it enlisted 170 volunteers to transfer 35,000 works about a quarter of the total kept in basement areas vulnerable to flooding in just 48 hours.

Two other riverside museums, the Musée d’Orsay and the Orangerie have said they are preparing for flooding, also ready to be evacuated if necessary.

Debbie Komorowski from Adelaide, Australia, was visiting the city for the fifth time with her husband and was left disappointed.

Two years ago we had our wedding anniversary here, on the bench over there,” she told AFP on the Ile de la Cité island in the heart of the capital. “And now it’s gone! We can’t believe it. It’s amazing and sad to see.

Métro stations might be closed as the Seine keeps rising, and services have been halted on the busy RER C suburban line until next Wednesday as workers seal off ventilation ducts to keep water out.

“It’s likely that the Seine will stay high for several days next week,” said Marc Mortureux, risk prevention director at the French environment ministry.

The flood reminds a catastrophic flood which hit the capital a century ago, drowning homes for months on end, and setting off a rash of cases of typhoid and scarlet fever. Some think the town is disastrously underprepared for another flood like that one.

The flooding situation in the French capital remains, however, far less severe than during the benchmark 1910 Great Flood, when the Seine water level rose to 8.62 meters (more than 28 feet), forcing many Parisians to evacuate their homes.

Paris isn't the only place in the flood zone: at least 15 French departments (the rough equivalent of counties in the US) across the north and east of the country are on alert for more flooding, the Associated Press reports, even as a break from heavy rain is in the forecast.