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Photo taken June 3, 2016 shows high waters in the Seine near the Pont Alexandre III. (Photo:  BikerNormand/flickr/cc)

Louvre Shuts Doors as Paris Gripped by Historic Flooding

Flooding also sweeping through Germany and Austria as Texas battles its own rising waters

Andrea Germanos

Paris's Louvre Museum is among the city's historic landmarks being shut on Friday as heavy rains caused the Seine River to swell to levels not seen in over three decades.

"I am really sorry, but we're closed today," one Louvre staffer told visitors, the Associated Press reports. "We have to evacuate masterpieces from the basement."

The Washington Post reports: "By early Friday evening, the Seine is expected to crest at approximately 21 feet, nearly 17 feet above its normal level. Authorities anticipate the water to remain high throughout the weekend but to gradually recede next week."

The highest level the river reached was during the Great Flood of 1910, when waters rose to 8.6 meters (28.2 feet). In 1982, the river reached 6.18 meters (20.3 feet).

French President Francois Hollande on Thursday declared a natural disaster for the worst affected areas, saying, "When there are climate phenomena of such seriousness, we must all be conscious that it's on a world scale and that we must act." 

In addition to the catastrophe the rising waters have caused Paris, the problems may be even greater beyond its borders, the Local.fr reports, as "the flood defenses of towns outside the capital are less fortified and as result the water has poured in. The départements of Loiret and Seine-et-Marne to the south and southeast of Paris have been two of the worst hit areas with the floodwaters rising to higher levels than in the great flood of 1910."

Newsweek reports, for example, that "In Nemours, south of the city, [located in the département of Seine-et-Marne] where Prime Minister Manuel Valls visited on Thursday, [...] At least 3,000 out of 13,000 inhabitants were evacuated from the town."

Environment Minister Segolene Royal warned: What's going to be even more painful for the families who have lost their homes, the heads of companies who have lost their businesses, employees who will be unable to go to work, is that the drop in the water level will be very slow,"

"It's a bit frightening, everything that's happening," said one woman from Marseille who identified herself as Odile, Reuters reports. "Not long ago they ran a flood simulation, how to evacuate museums, residents. And now it's happening for real."

On top of the flooding in France, Austria has also been battling flooding, while "Torrential rain, thunderstorms, and flash floods" have hit Germany as well, Bloomberg reports, where they are being blamed for at least eight deaths.

The rains and flooding gripping these countries, climate risk expert Jeroen Aerts said to RFI, are due "to climate, and we have to get used to it, but also to us humans, settling into areas that we shouldn't live."

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the U.S. state of Texas is battling historic flooding, prompting Gov. Greg Abbott this week to declare a state of disaster for 31 counties.

The National Weather Service said this week that the the Brazos River reached record levels, cresting at nearly 54 feet Tuesday.

"About half of Texas is under flood watches or warnings," AP reports Friday, adding that more storms could bring additional rain into Saturday.


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