Paris remains on flood alert as Seine rises

Posted at 1:29 PM, Jan 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-28 15:29:47-05

PARIS – Paris was on flood alert throughout the weekend after the swollen Seine burst its banks, leaving streets flooded and forcing parts of the lower level of the famous Louvre Museum to close.

On Sunday, water levels were holding at 5.87 meters (just over 19 feet), according to CNN Meteorologist Gene Norman, and were expected to peak later in the evening around 6 meters (about 19.5 feet).

The river overflowed in some places this week when water levels reached just over 5 meters (nearly 17 feet).

Paris Police previously said the Seine was forecast to reach 5.95 meters (nearly 20 feet) overnight from Sunday into Monday. That’s lower than the last serious flooding in June 2016 when water levels reached 6.1 meters (about 20 feet) and riverside museums were forced to move artwork from their basements.

There had previously been fears the water would peak at 6.2 meters (more than 20 feet) on Saturday, but the French meteorological service, Meteo France, said it was unlikely after the rain stopped Friday.

Waters will begin to slowly recede over the next week, Norman said.

Water levels by the central Austerlitz Bridge had reached 5.72 meters (nearly 19 feet) by midday Saturday, according to the official Vigicrues flood agency website.

Flooding has disrupted some metro and train services in the city, and some walkways and roads near the river are closed. City authorities have warned of a flood risk to basement levels of properties on streets bordering the Seine.

Aerial footage filmed by a Paris police drone and posted on Twitter shows the extent of the flooding.

The Louvre, which is next to the river, partially closed one wing as a cautionary measure. Louvre officials told CNN that the museum expects the lower level of the Islamic wing to remain closed until at least Monday, and they have protocols in place to protect valuable artwork should the situation deteriorate.

Nevertheless, Parisians appeared unfazed, saying the deluge had not affected their daily lives too much.

Water levels in the rain-swollen Seine are nowhere near those reached in 1910 when waters rose to around 8.5 meters (about 28 feet) forcing residents to evacuate.

Colombe Brossel, the deputy Paris mayor, told CNN Saturday the city had learned from past mistakes, but that more needs to be done to adapt to climate change.

“Two floodings of the Seine river in less than two years — we have to change, we have to change the way we build this city,” Brossel said. “We have to understand that climatic change is not a word, it’s a reality.”

Upstream of Paris, water levels in the Marne — the river that joins the Seine as it enters the city — continued to creep higher on Saturday, Paris police said. Downstream of the French capital, the Seine is still rising, and levels are higher than in 2016.

Police said that as of 6 a.m. Saturday, 1,000 people had been evacuated and 1,200 properties were without power. The patients of two hospitals were transferred to other facilities as a precaution.

The town of Condé-Sainte-Libiaire is among those affected, with roads turned into rivers and homes left almost submerged.