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Paris’s River Seine begins to recede after 30-year high

Bertrand GUAY / AFP | The Zouave statue of the Alma bridge flooded by the River Seine near the Eiffel Tower following heavy rainfall in Paris on June 3, 2016

The death toll from the flooding in France has risen to four, officials said Saturday, as the water level of the rain-swollen River Seine slowly started to decrease after forcing the closure of several Paris landmarks.

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From a peak of 6.10 metres in the early hours of Saturday, the river began to subside, falling to 5.99 metres at 5pm local time, the environment ministry's Vigicrues flood watch website said.

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

"We're now in the stabilisation phase,"said Bruno Janet, Vigicrues' head of modelling.

But authorities warned it could take up to ten days for the river to return to normal after swelling to its highest level in nearly 35 years.

The death toll from the flooding across the country has risen to four while 24 people have been injured, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said after a meeting at a government crisis centre.

He didn't give any more details about the additional death, which brings the total death toll across Europe from the flooding in recent days to 17.

Valls said the water level of the Seine is now decreasing "slowly but steadily" in Paris and that several ministerial meetings will be held next week to ensure quick financial help to the people affected.

Swimmers in the flooded Seine, Paris

He also urged Paris visitors and residents to "take care to observe safety precautions" since many have been walking along the river banks to observe the rare phenomena.

'Incomprehensible' strikes

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

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

Authorities have shut the Louvre museum, the national library, the Orsay museum and the Grand Palais, Paris' striking glass-and-steel topped exhibition center.

The Louvre, home to Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa," said it won't reopen until Wednesday. Curators were scrambling to move some 250,000 artworks from basement storage areas at risk of flooding to safer areas upstairs.

The Orsay Museum, known for its impressionist art, closed through the weekend.

Several railway and subway stations shut down in Paris city center and drivers experienced traffic problems in and around the French capital because of flooded roads.

Valls said authorities had "no major concern" regarding other rail and subway services, yet boats and barges docked in the capital were being carefully watched to ensure none would cast off their moorings.

The prime minister took the opportunity for a dig at striking railworkers, who have been protesting against reforms to the rail sector and France’s labour laws.

Valls said their protest was "totally incomprehensible" in the light of the suffering inflicted on the public by the floods.

“Penalizing transports users who are experiencing bad weather, floods, this is not possible and I ask everyone to take responsibility and to stop this movement as soon as possible,” he added.

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

Although the rain has tapered off in some areas, possible floods were expected over the weekend downstream along the Seine river, in the region of Normandy.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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