Tuesday 17 January 2017

Tourists turned away from word famous Louvre as priceless art at risk from Paris floods

Published 03/06/2016 | 12:14

Visitors gather in front of the entrance of the Musee de Louvre which is closed and tourists being turned away, due to the unusually high water level of the nearby river Seine in Paris.(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Visitors gather in front of the entrance of the Musee de Louvre which is closed and tourists being turned away, due to the unusually high water level of the nearby river Seine in Paris.(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Curators at the Louvre in Paris are scrambling to protect art from the museum's priceless collection as flood waters continue to rise in the French capital.

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The swollen Seine River kept rising on Friday, with officials saying it was at its highest level in nearly 35 years and expected to peak later on in the day.

Nearly a week of heavy rain has led to serious flooding across a swathe of Europe, where 14 people have died and more are missing. Although the rain has tapered off in some areas, flood waters are still climbing over river banks. Flooding blocked roads in the French capital and several Paris railway stations were shut.

While the Louvre's most famous painting, Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, was safe on an upper floor, officials said about 250,000 artworks were located in flood-risk areas, mostly in basement storerooms. The art is being moved upstairs as officials take precautionary measures to keep it safe.

The Orsay museum, on the left bank of the Seine, was also closed on Friday to prepare for possible flooding.

A spokeswoman at the Louvre said the museum had not taken such precautions in its modern history - since its 1993 renovation at least

A fireman pulls a woman and her dog to shore by a row of houseboats on the River Seine in Paris (AP)
A fireman pulls a woman and her dog to shore by a row of houseboats on the River Seine in Paris (AP)

Disappointed tourists were being turned away from the museum.

Elsewhere in Europe, authorities were counting the cost of the floods as they waded through muddy streets and waterlogged homes.

Read more: River Seine overflows Paris embankments as France braced for floods

German authorities said the body of a 65-year-old man was found overnight in the town of Simbach am Inn, bringing the country's death toll to 10. France's Interior Ministry also reported the death of a 74-year-old man who fell from his horse and drowned in a river in the Seine-et-Marne region east of Paris, the second death in France.

In eastern Romania, two people died and 200 people were evacuated from their homes as floods swept the area, including one man who was knocked off his bicycle by a torrent of water in the eastern village of Ruginesti.

Several other people in Europe were missing on Friday, including a Belgian beekeeper who was swept away by the current while trying to save his hives from rising waters in the eastern village of Harsin.

The foul weather has compounded the travel disruptions in France, which is already dealing with the fallout from weeks of strikes and other industrial actions by workers upset over the government's proposed labour reforms. French rail company SNCF said the strikes had led to the cancellation of some 40% of the country's high-speed trains.

In addition, French energy company Enedis said more than 20,000 customers are without power to the east and south of Paris.

Outside the Louvre, tourists expressed understanding over the museum's closure.

"It's good that they are evacuating the paintings. It's a shame that we couldn't see them today, but it's right that they do these things," said Carlos Santiago, who was visiting from Mexico.

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