Torrential Rain Triggers Floods in France; Seine Rises to Highest Level in 34 Years

By Angeline Benoit and | June 2, 2016

Paris’s Seine River rose to its highest level in more than 34 years, disrupting train traffic and prompting the Louvre museum to shut to move some its artwork from flood-prone storage areas.

As torrential rains lashed France over the last several days, they flooded towns, brought down power lines and blocked train and road traffic in large sections of the center and the northeastern parts of the country. With images of inundated towns and flooded homes flashing across television screens, President Francois Hollande said in a press conference that the consequences of the bad weather were “very serious.”

In the Paris region, cities south of the capital braced for flooding later in the day as the Seine rose above five meters. The river that flows across Paris has risen to levels not seen since 1982. Paris was put on the second-highest alert level from the third-highest.

Across France, like in neighboring Germany — where incessant rains have left at least eight dead — people have had to be evacuated from their homes. Forecasters have warned of more downpours to come. As many as 24,000 homes across France were without electricity because of the floods, according to power distribution group Enedis, a unit of state-controlled Electricite de France SA.

Traffic Hit

The rains and the flooding have disrupted travel in sections of the country, with train traffic hit between the cities of Metz and Luxembourg, in the east, as well as between Paris and Meudon, south of the capital, a spokeswoman for the national railway SNCF said. The A10 highway southwest of Paris, and over 20 roads north of the city of Orleans were affected, while minor disruptions occurred on highways A71 and A85, operator Vinci said in a statement.

French insurers said it is too early to provide estimates of the costs associated with any damages from the rains, according to a spokesman for the industry’s association.

In the Paris region’s hardest-hit area of Seine-et-Marne, 3,000 people were transferred to emergency housing and 300 more in the Yvelines district, the Interior Ministry said. Five high schools in the capital’s region were closed, while emergency reparations were made in five others, local authorities said.

Louvre, Orsay

The Louvre and the Orsay museums, which are on opposite banks of the Seine River, will be closed on Friday.

“The reason is to protect artwork situated in flood-prone areas by moving them to higher floors,” the Louvre said.

SNCF said that Paris’ RER C suburban train services were halted late Thursday as the water level is expected to reach 5.75 meters at the Austerlitz bridge, by which some of its tracks pass. Navigation of tourist boats as well as freight barges on the Seine in Paris was halted after the river rose to 4.30 meters.

Paris received 52.9 millimeters of rain on Monday, the most rain on record for a day in May, according to data on Infoclimat. Total rainfall in May was almost triple the normal level.

The Seine River in Paris may rise to 5.6 meters above zero level on Thursday and should peak below 6 meters on Friday, the Paris City said on website. The river was at 5.25 meters as of 6 p.m. local time, according to the government flood-information website Vigicrues.

–With assistance from Fabio Benedetti-Valentini.

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