Sun, Jun 05, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Museums close as Seine nears peak

BELOW RECORD LEVEL:The River Seine was expected to peak at between 6.1m and 6.4m, more than two meters shy of the 8.62m which was recorded in 1910

AFP, PARIS

People on Friday look at the Louvre museum from a submerged dock on the left bank of the River Seine in Paris, France.

Photo: EPA

Paris’ Louvre and Orsay museums shut their doors in a race to move art treasures from their basements, as the River Seine yesterday neared its highest level in more than three decades.

At least 17 people have been killed in floods that have wrought havoc in parts of Europe after days of pounding rain, trapping people in their homes and forcing rescuers to row lifeboats down streets turned into rivers.

Parisians were urged to stay away from the Seine, which has spilled over its banks in places and at 3am yesterday was at 6.09m above normal levels.

French President Francois Hollande made a late night visit to the Louvre, where dozens of volunteers worked through the night to save some of the 38,000 artworks thought to be at risk.

The Seine’s famous tree-lined riverside walkways, usually the evening haunt of strolling couples, were inundated with several feet of eddying water.

France’s Ministry of the Environment said the river was expected to peak at between 6.1m and 6.4m — potentially higher than the floods of 1982. The record remains at 8.62m reached in 1910.

Paris firefighters warned people to keep away from dangerous parts of the river, but crowds still gathered on the famous Pont du Carrousel bridge to watch the swirling 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 pulled his bicycle over to take a picture.

A small number of basement flats in the capital began to flood on Friday and the environment ministry warned some residents in areas of western Paris might have to be evacuated.

A campsite in the Bois de Boulogne in the west of the capital was cleared.

DEADLY WATERS

Persistently heavy rainfall across western and central Europe has swollen rivers and claimed victims from at least four countries.

Eleven people have been killed in the German states of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, and two in Romania, while a beekeeper died in Belgium while trying to save his hives.

In France, a man on horseback drowned on Thursday after being swept away by a swollen river southeast of Paris.

At Montargis in the north-central Loiret region, police also said they had found the body of a woman in her 60s who had apparently drowned.

French Minister of the Environment Minister Segolene Royal said she feared more bodies would be found as waters receded in villages in central France, some of which have suffered their worst floods in a century.

Meanwhile the environment ministry said a “plateau” in flooding had probably been reached.

“This high level should likely remain relatively stable throughout the weekend before [the flooding] begins to recede,” it said.

In northeast France, about 100 people were evacuated because of violent storms.

Officials erected emergency flood barriers along the Seine in the capital, where several metro stations were closed and workers piled sandbags on platform entrances to stop the waters.

Boat traffic has been banned in the capital, and a regional train line that runs along the Seine has been suspended.

PREPARED FOR THE WORST

On opposite banks of the river, the Louvre and Orsay museums, which see a combined total of 12.5 million visitors a year, closed their doors on Friday so that artworks could be moved to higher floors.

The Orsay, which houses a world-renowned collection of 19th and early 20th century art, said it would remain closed until Tuesday.

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