Rising river level a threat to famous landmarks of Paris

Famous landmarks of Paris including the Eiffel Tower and The Louvre are under threat from rising Seine floodwaters.

The floodwaters have transformed the streets of scenic French towns into mucky canals, swallowing up parts of the capital.

And the waters are still rising.

Swollen by weeks of heavy rains, the Seine river is expected to reach its peak in the French capital late Sunday or early Monday, local time.

The bottom floor of the Louvre museum, several Parisian parks and riverside train stations were closed as a precaution. Water lapped the underside of historic bridges and engulfed cobblestone quays, where tree tops and lampposts now poke out of the brown, swirling Seine.

Floodwaters have halted boat traffic in Paris, closed roads and schools and prompted the evacuation of hospitals.

But Paris is better prepared than when it was hit by heavy flooding in 2016, and residents have largely taken Sunday’s flood warnings it their stride. Other towns were not so lucky. More than 240 towns along the Seine and smaller rivers have suffered damage.

“The situation remains more sensitive downstream,” as the high waters from the Seine and its tributaries come together and work their way northwest toward the Atlantic Ocean, Paris regional police chief Michel Delpuech warned.

Instead of cars, swans and canoes occupied thoroughfares Sunday in the town of Villennes-sur-Seine west of Paris.

The ground floors of some buildings were underwater in the centre of the town, which has an island in it. Water nearly filled a tunnel, and boots were the footwear of choice for people who hadn’t evacuated to emergency shelters.

“The river is rising slowly, but surely,” resident Christian Petit told The Associated Press. “The residents have the experience of floods so they organise. There is a lot of solidarity.”

In Paris, cruise boat companies suffered losses because of a ban on river traffic due to the high, fast waters on the Seine.

Paris police fined people who took a canoe into the river on Saturday and gave stern warnings to others. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted on Sunday that “the situation is relatively under control,” but she urged vigilance and changes to city planning to adapt to an increasing number of extreme weather events.

Meteorological authorities forecast the Seine’s levels to peak in Paris late Sunday or early Monday at around 5.9m on the Austerlitz scale. That’s below record levels, but still several metres above normal.

Even after its peak, however, river levels are expected to remain exceptionally high for days. (Agencies)

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