Jun 4, 2016 by

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The Louvre and Orsay museums evacuate their treasures from underground basements to higher floors as French officials warn the river Seine, already swollen by flood waters, could peak at six meters. (Reuters)
By Associated Press June 3 at 5:24 PM  VIA WASHINGTON POST

PARIS — The swollen Seine River kept rising Friday, spilling into Paris streets and forcing one landmark after another to shut down as it surged to its highest levels in nearly 35 years. Across the capital, museums, parks and cemeteries were being closed as the city braced for possible evacuations.

The Seine was expected to peak in Paris later Friday at about 16 feet, 3 inches above normal. Authorities shut the Louvre Museum, the national library, the Orsay Museum and the Grand Palais, Paris’s striking glass-and-steel-topped exhibition center.

“We evaluate the situation for all the buildings nearly hour by hour,” said Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay, speaking to journalists outside the world-famous Louvre. “We don’t know yet the evolution of the level of the Seine River in Paris.”

At the Louvre, home to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” curators were scrambling to move some 250,000 artworks from basement storage areas at risk of flooding to safer areas upstairs.

Nearly a week of heavy rain has caused serious flooding across a swath of Europe, leaving 16 people dead and others missing.
After heavy rain, France sees historic flooding
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Some towns in central France are suffering their worst floods in more than a century.

Although the rain has tapered off in some areas, floodwaters are still climbing and could take weeks to clear. Traffic in the French capital was snarled as flooding choked roads, and several Paris railway stations shut down.

Basements and apartments in the city’s well-to-do 16th district began to flood Friday afternoon as the river crept higher, and authorities were preparing possible evacuations in a park and islands on Paris’s western edge.

French authorities activated preliminary plans to move the presidency, ministries and other sensitive offices to secure sites in case of flooding. The General Secretariat for Defense and National Security said the president’s and prime minister’s offices were not immediately threatened but the National Assembly and the Foreign Ministry were at greater risk.

President François Hollande said “more decisions” may be required because of the “exceptional” flooding situation in Paris and other French regions.

Hollande spoke Friday at a news conference with visiting South Korean President Park Geun-hye. He didn’t elaborate on what new decisions he is considering should the Seine keep rising.

The French president said that “what is happening now, especially in Paris and in some regions, is exceptional.”

In addition to the Louvre, the Orsay Museum, home to a renowned collection of impressionist art on the left bank of the Seine, was also closed Friday, as was the Grand Palais, which draws 2.5 million visitors a year.
Residents evacuate their home in Nemours, south of Paris on June 2 as floods inundated parts of France and Germany. (Jerome Delay/AP)

Louvre officials said the museum had not taken such precautions in its modern history — since its 1993 renovation at the very least. Disappointed tourists were being turned away, but most were understanding.

“It’s good that they are evacuating the paintings. It’s a shame that we couldn’t see them today, but it’s right that they do these things,” said Carlos Santiago, visiting from Mexico.

Elsewhere in Europe, authorities were counting the cost of the floods as they waded through muddy streets and waterlogged homes.

German authorities said that the body of a 65-year-old man was found in the town of Simbach am Inn and that a 72-year-old man died of a heart attack after being rescued from a raging stream in the village of Triftern, bringing the country’s death toll from recent flooding to 11.


France’s Interior Ministry also reported the death of a 74-year-old man who fell from his horse and drowned in a river in the Seine-et-Marne region east of Paris, the second death in France.

With leading Paris museums closed, the surging currents were a tourist attraction in themselves. Prakash Amritraj, 42, visiting from India with his wife and two children, took selfies on the Mirabeau Bridge in western Paris.

“I had never thought of possible floods in Paris city center. In India, we have the monsoon, but here! It’s not supposed to happen,” he said.

While he sympathized with all those affected, he appreciated the flooding from a different perspective.

“It’s kind of beautiful, in a way,” he said.

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