Flash floods kill several in France, Germany; thousands rescued; Louvre to close Friday

Flash-floods-kill-several-in-France-Germany-thousands-rescued-Louvre-to-close-Friday.  PARIS,  French authorities continued to warn residents on Thursday to stay away from the Seine River as it nears record levels, due to torrential rains, as thousands evacuate for higher ground.

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A man on a stairway is cut off by a rising Seine River in Paris on Thursday, June 2, 2016. The river has swollen to its highest level in 30 years and forced the closure of the Louvre and Orsay Museums, as well as some trains and metros. The flooding was the result of sustained rains that caused the Seine to rise to 18 feet above its normal level, as of Thursday, officials said. Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

The French government declared a state of “natural disaster” in some parts of the country, Thursday — a move that will provide funding to hard-hit areas.

Nearly 22,000 homes in Paris and other regions are also without power. Officials said several people have died in France and Germany under the slow-moving and rainy weather system.

Thursday, officials said the Seine had risen to 18 feet above its normal level — a substantial swelling, but still below the all-time record of 26 feet in 1910.

The famous Louvre Museum announced that it will be closed on Friday due to rising waters, and the Musée d’Orsay — another riverside museum with rare artwork byVincent van Gogh, Edouard Manet and others — closed early Thursday as a precaution.

“The situation threatens to cause great difficulties in the coming hours,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Thursday.

The flash flooding cut through small towns and destroyed roadways and homes in its path. Many local residents, who had no time to react, perched themselves on rooftops and hoped to be rescued.

Railway employees block the entrance to a suburban train beneath Paris, which was closed due to rising levels of the Seine River on Thursday, June 2, 2016. The river has swollen to its highest level in 30 years and forced the closure of the Louvre and Orsay Museums. The flooding was the result of days of sustained rains, which has caused the Seine to rise 18 feet above its normal level by Thursday, officials said. Photo by David Silpa/UPI

As many as 250 children in Bavaria were trapped in a school by rising floodwaters for several hours before they were rescued.

Wednesday, French emergency workers performed thousands of rescue operations in areas where a full six weeks-worth of rain fell in 24 hours. In Paris, flooding on a scale not seen since the 1910 storms closed streets and blocked off areas popular with tourists.

Among the dead are an 86-year-old woman in central France and three people in Bavaria who had become trapped inside a home. The storms also produced lightning that left several injured, including dozens of children at a party. A man on horsebackwas swept away by flood waters — his body later found about 30 miles outside Paris.

Forecasters said an area of low pressure will remain stationary over the area for at least the next several days, producing more rain. Meteorologists said warm, moist air from the Mediterranean Sea is feeding the storm system.

By Amy R. Connolly and Doug G. Ware

UPI NEWS