Seine river plateaus after floods that killed 4, shuttered museums

Paris' flooded central river has reached its peak, but it might be a while until the Seine and its surroundings return to normal, Mayor Anne Hidalgo said Saturday after a crisis meeting with city officials.

Heavy rains last week, which have since tapered off, caused the river to rise to its highest point in more than 30 years. The floods caused some 20,000 evacuations around the Paris region. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said four people had died and 24 were injured across the areas of France affected by the floods.

The Seine reached its zenith on Friday, when its waters hit 6.1 metres above usual levels. While no one has been seriously injured, officials said rescue operations have responded to requests for help from hundreds of onlookers who got too close to the swirling waters.

Transportation networks were interrupted, with at least two rail and metro stations closed near the river and roads blocked off. Many of the city's famous museums were also closed, including the Louvre. Workers had to move masterpieces to higher ground.

Some rains are still forecast for the next few days, Hidalgo said, but they are not forecast to be heavy enough to make a difference to river levels, which she said are expected to settle at 6.05 metres.

Hidalgo and other officials could not say when they expect the waters to begin going down. Valls, speaking to journalists after a government meeting on Saturday, said the waters were receding "slowly but steadily," and said that it would take many days for them to reach a normal level.

He added that the government planned to hold a number of meetings on the floods at the beginning of the week, adding that the Economics Ministry would, "pay special attention to the economic damage, concerning the commercial or industrial activity that could have been hit by these floods."

Several riverside business were affected by the high waters. Hidalgo pointed out boat tour company Bateaux Mouche and the numerous floating cafes and restaurants that line the banks. Many parks and gardens remained shut, Hidalgo said that the city was assessing the stability of trees in rain-sodden ground.

The biggest challenges for Paris during the days and weeks, Hidalgo said, was the maintenance of underground infrastructures near the river.

The water covered riverside promenades and reached the bottom branches of trees planted alongside the lower embankments. Numerous offices and apartment buildings near the river saw their cellars and basements affected by the rising waters.

Boat traffic along the river was restricted to emergency services, whose small boats barely fit under the arches of the bridges that cross the Seine.

"It's true that the Seine, overflowing its banks, is something spectacular and everyone wants to see this historic moment ... but there is a real danger, and the current is very strong," Hidalgo said, warning Parisians and visitors to be prudent when they go to see the swollen river.

Last update: Sat, 04/06/2016 - 20:29
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