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Thursday 12 December 2019

Seine water levels decrease after Paris flooding peaks

A traffic sign on the flooded banks of the Seine (AP)
A traffic sign on the flooded banks of the Seine (AP)
A replica of the Statue of Liberty stands tall over the flooded River Seine in Paris (AP)
People looking at the floods from the Alma bridge by the Zouave statue which is used as a measuring instrument during floods in Paris (AP)

The Seine River peaked early on Saturday around Paris, hitting its highest level in nearly 35 years with the death toll from flooding in France rising to four.

Its level reached almost 4.5 metres (15ft) above average and authorities warned it could take up to 10 days for the river to return to normal.

It will take at least four days before tourists in the French capital get a chance once more to view art at the world-class Louvre museum.

Curators there have been scrambling to move 250,000 artworks upstairs, away from basement storage areas at risk of flooding.

The Louvre, home to Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, said it will not reopen until Wednesday, while the Orsay Museum, known for its impressionist art, was closed at least through the weekend.

Other Paris landmarks shut down due to flooding include the national library and the Grand Palais, Paris's striking glass-and-steel topped exhibition centre.

Nearly a week of heavy rain has led to serious flooding across parts of France, Germany, Romania and Belgium.

The death toll from French flooding rose to four, with 24 others injured, said French prime minister Manuel Valls after a government crisis centre meeting.

Mr Valls did not elaborate, but that brings the total death toll across Europe from two weeks of flooding to 18.

Mr Valls said the water level of the Seine is now falling "slowly but steadily" in Paris and added several ministerial meetings next week will make sure quick financial help is provided to those affected.

He also urged Paris visitors and residents "to observe safety precautions" since many have been walking along the Seine's overflowing banks to observe the rare phenomena.

Even as the waters start to recede in Paris, transportation problems remained.

Several train and subway stations were shut down in the city centre due to the flooding and Paris drivers still faced major problems due to flooded roads.

The French energy company Enedis said over 17,000 homes were still without electricity on Saturday in the Paris region and central France.

One of the Seine's tributaries had not seen water levels this high since 1910, when the Great Flood of Paris swamped the capital.

France's meteorological service said high flood alerts remained in effect in 14 regions, mostly in central and western France, including Paris.

Although the rain tapered off in some areas, there was a chance of floods over the weekend downstream along the Seine in Normandy.

Boats and barges docked in Paris were being carefully watched to ensure none would cast off their moorings.

Nicolas Hainsohn, a boathouse resident on the Seine, said the situation was usual but added "it's just water."

"We are used to this. We've seen it once or twice," he said.

"It's tricky to dock, because you need to follow the water flow, you have to be careful, otherwise you can hit the river bank."

PA Media

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