River Seine set to keep rising as Louvre closes its doors
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The River Seine in Paris surged to its highest level in more than 30 years on Thursday, shutting down the famed Louvre and Orsay museums, and is set to continue to rise on Friday as more bad weather arrives in flood-hit France.
Some towns in central France have been hit by their worst floods in over a century, with more than 5,000 people evacuated since the weekend and around 19,000 homes without power, after several days of torrential rain.
In Evry-Gregy-sur-Yerre, south of Paris, a man on horseback drowned on Thursday, the prefecture said in a statement. Le Parisien newspaper said the 74-year-old had been trying to cross a flooded field. The horse survived with minor injuries.
He was the second victim of the flooding after an 86-year-old woman was found dead in her flooded house in a small town southwest of Paris late on Wednesday.
The Seine burst its banks on Wednesday and, as of Thursday evening, had reached a height of 5.37m above its normal level. Authorities warned the river could reach a peak of 5.90m above normal on Friday, with forecasters predicting further downpours.
On Thursday, the world famous Louvre and Orsay museums, which face each other on opposite banks of the River Seine in the French capital, said they were both temporarily closing their doors in order to move their treasured artworks out of harm’s way.
Meanwhile, the SNCF rail operator was forced to close the RER C commuter line that runs along the river and is used by tourists to reach the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral and Versailles.
"It's amazing. I have been here many times and it's the first time I have seen the river so high," said Brian Alan, an American tourist from Atlanta, Georgia, who was watching the scene from the Alexander III Bridge that traverses the Seine.
State of emergency
Outside of the capital, rescuers in the Parisian suburb of Longjumeau were paddling up streets in lifeboats, while in the town of Montargis, only the tops of cars could be seen peeking above the surface.
“Since yesterday it’s just been a deluge,” said Jerome Coiffier, an inhabitant of Longjumeau.
At least 3,000 out of 13,000 inhabitants have been evacuated in Nemours, 75 km (45 miles) south of Paris, as floodwaters crept towards the second story of buildings in the town centre.
In the Loire Valley, Chambord castle, a UNESCO world heritage site, found itself surrounded by water.
Prolonged heavy rain also pounded parts of neighbouring Germany and at least five people have died in floods in Bavaria state in the south of the country, officials said.
President François Hollande on Thursday declared a state of emergency in the worst affected areas in France and promised funding to help local authorities deal with flood damage. Unusually heavy rains in June showed the urgency to curb climate change, he said.
The national weather service said the greater Paris region had in May endured its wettest month since 1960.
In the Loiret region, where local officials called on the army to help evacuate motorists trapped on the A10 motorway, the floods were the most severe in a century.
However, the flooding in the French capital still has some way to go to match the levels seen in what is known as “the great flood of Paris” of 1910, when the River Seine reached a record high of 8.6 metres and thousands of Parisians had to flee flooded low-lying areas of the city.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)