Four dead as Paris floodwaters recede, clean-up starts

PARIS, After rising more than 20 feet above it’s normal level, the Seine River, which runs through Paris, started “slowly but steadily” receding late Saturday, as did flooding in other parts of France, with at least four people dead and 42 injured across the country at the end of a week of rotten weather across Europe.

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The river’s rising stopped overnight just before basements and underground garages would have started to flood, though some public transportation was shut down and two of the city’s most famous museums shut their doors while rushing to protect the priceless works they house.

France is starting to take stock of its share of damage after a week of storms that scarred Europe, getting a look at how the Seine hitting its highest levels since 1982 has affected the city.

Officials had made plans to move government operations from Paris’ Élysée Palace to another venue east of the city if the river rose more than 21 feet above its normal level.

Towns south of Paris and in the Loire Valley received heavy rains as well, flooding and contributing to the swelling of the Seine in the country’s capital. During the last month, France has seen rainfall levels at their highest since 1973, and the Seine hit its highest level since 1910.

“The river is falling, but it will happen slowly,” said Melanie Rigaud, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, the Wall Street Journal reported, and may take as long as 10 days according to other officials.

The French government started warning Paris residents and tourists to stay away from the river on Thursday, with officials declaring a natural disaster to make funds available for the clean-up as soon as it can start. Nearly 22,000 homes were reported to be without power as well.

At the beginning of the week, 46 people, many of them children, were injured at a birthday party in France because of lightning as well.

Bridges in Paris have been closed and non-emergency boats are not being permitted on the Seine, according to The BBC, and The Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay will remain closed until at least the middle of next week.

The Louvre has not evacuated pieces of art from an exhibition in 100 years, but employees of the museum found themselves moving paintings because of concern the rising water would come up from the sewers and damage the works.

Officials are urging Paris residents and tourists to exercise caution as the waters recede, the Daily Mail reported, and city workers were starting to dismantle makeshift bridges that had been constructed to cross flooded areas near the Seine.

Rail systems — 7 out of 14 of which were affected with “extremely serious” incidents during flooding, with one completely submerged — will not re-open until late next week until they are determined to be safe, RFI reported.

The rest of Europe has not had it any easier, as Germany is beginning to experience flooding from the slow-moving weather system, and part of the first night of the Rock Am Ring music fest was cancelled after 51 concertgoers required treatment for lightning-related injuries.

Earlier in the week, 35 people were injured by lightning at a children’s soccer game just after the whistle’s final blow. No signs of the impending storm were visible during the devastating lightning strike, officials said.

A fifth death from the flooding in Germany was uncovered on Friday, and officials in Romania, Belgium and Czechoslovakia also reported deaths connected to flooding from the storms, according to The Weather Channel.

By Stephen Feller

UPI