Floodwaters hit peak in Paris, now threaten Normandy
Around 1,500 people have been evacuated from their homes in the greater Paris region, according to police, while a similar number of homes remain without electricity.world Updated: Jan 29, 2018 19:54 IST
Floodwaters have reached a peak in Paris and are now threatening towns downstream along the rain-engorged Seine River.
The national flood monitoring agency Vigicrues said the water levels hit a maximum height of 5.84 meters (19 feet, 2 inches) on the Austerlitz scale early Monday. That’s below initial fears last week, and well below record levels of 8.62 meters in 1910.
But weeks of heavy rains have swollen the Seine and its tributaries, forcing road closures, engulfing scenic embankments and halting river boat cruises through the French capital.
The waters are expected to stay unusually high for days or weeks.
The floods have caused damage in 242 towns along the river, and are now threatening more towns as the Seine heads downstream west of Paris toward Normandy and the English Channel.
Around 1,500 people have been evacuated from their homes in the greater Paris region, according to police, while a similar number of homes remain without electricity.
Tourists also suffered with the capital’s famous Bateaux Mouches rivercraft out of service, and only emergency services authorised to navigate the waterway.
The Seine did not quite reach the 2016 high of 6.1 metres, when priceless artworks had to be evacuated from the Louvre.
But the world’s most visited museum was still on alert Sunday, along with the Musee d’Orsay and Orangerie galleries, with the lower level of the Louvre’s Islamic arts wing closed to visitors at least until Monday.
A statue of an Algerian French army soldier from the Crimean War named Zouave that has guarded the river at the Pont d’Alma bridge in central Paris since 1910 was drenched up to the thighs in the muddy waters.
“Fluctuat nec mergitur (tossed but not sunk) but it’s cooold,” the Zouave statue tweeted from an account set up in its name by an anonymous admirer, using the Latin motto of the City of Paris.
Police again warned flooding aficionados against bathing or canoeing in the river, saying it was “forbidden and extremely dangerous”.
More favourable weather is expected for the week ahead, but even once the water levels start to recede forecasters and officials say it will be a slow process, as much of the ground in northern France is already waterlogged.
“If we’re talking about things getting completely back to normal, that’s going to take weeks,” said Jerome Goellner, regional head of environmental services.
The December-January period is now the third wettest on record since data collection began in 1900, according to France’s meteorological service.
A main commuter line, the RER C, has halted service at Paris stops until at least February 5, and some expressways that run alongside the Seine have been closed.
However, fears of flooding like that seen in 1910, which saw the Seine rise to 8.62 metres and shut down much of Paris’s basic infrastructure, appeared unfounded.
In the city centre, the Seine flows through a deep channel, limiting the potential flooding damage.
But several areas on the city’s outskirts were under water, including the southern suburb of Villeneuve-Saint- Georges, where some residents were getting around by boat and dozens have been evacuated from their homes.
Downstream from Paris, water levels in some areas surpassed those of 2016.
“Everyone is getting around by boat” on the island of Migneaux in Poissy, a western Paris suburb, said local Serge Matikhin.
“The mood is still good, we are used to it -- in 20 years we are on our eighth or ninth flood,” he said.