France floods ease as Seine starts to recede

2016-06-04 21:25
A flooded street of Tours, around 280km of Paris, following heavy rainfalls on the Cher region. (Guillaume Souvant, AFP)

A flooded street of Tours, around 280km of Paris, following heavy rainfalls on the Cher region. (Guillaume Souvant, AFP)

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Paris – The rain-swollen River Seine in Paris began receding Saturday after reaching its highest level in three decades, easing fears after devastating floods sent the Louvre and other riverside museums scrambling to protect their treasures.

From a peak of 6.10m in the early hours of Saturday, the river began to subside, falling to 6.04m at 10:00 (08:00 GMT), the environment ministry's Vigicrues flood watch website said.

The record for the Seine is 8.62m, reached in 1910.

"We're now in the stabilisation phase, even if we could still get one or two centimetres more", said Bruno Janet, head of modelling at Vigicrues.

The city remained on orange flood alert but the threat appeared to have shifted to northeastern France, where threatened storms could cause other rivers to burst their banks, as well as around the northern port of Le Havre where the Seine flows into the sea.

The Louvre and Orsay museums, which sit on opposite banks of the Seine, remained closed Saturday, a day after shutting their doors in a race to move art treasures from their basements to higher ground.

'Nature more powerful than man'

On Saturday, pieces of driftwood, plastic bags and other detritus swept past in the muddy waters which engulfed the city's famous riverside walkways, a popular haunt of strolling couples.

Two metro stations remained closed and services on a train line that hugs the Seine was still suspended in places. Boat traffic was also suspended.

The City of Paris said it had opened two gyms to shelter the homeless.

Across Europe, at least 17 people have been killed in floods caused by pounding rains that have trapped people in their homes and forced rescuers to navigate swamped streets in lifeboats.

Four of them have died in France, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Saturday.

More than 20 000 people have been evacuated over the past week from the Loire Valley and the greater Paris area.

Over 17 110 homes remained without power on Saturday, electricity supplier Enedis said.

Paris firefighters warned people to keep away from dangerous parts of the river, but crowds gathered undeterred on bridges to snap pictures of the fast-flowing waters.

"It is a reminder that nature is more powerful than man and we cannot do anything, only wait," said Gabriel Riboulet, a 26-year-old entrepreneur, as he took in the scene.

Read more on:    france  |  weather

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