News ID: 152606
Published: 0636 GMT June 04, 2016

Paris museums close as Seine nears 30-year high

Paris museums close as Seine nears 30-year high

Paris' Louvre and Orsay museums shut their doors in a race to move art treasures from their basements, as the River Seine Saturday neared its highest level in more than three decades.

At least 17 people have been killed in floods that have wrought havoc in parts of Europe after days of pounding rain, trapping people in their homes and forcing rescuers to row lifeboats down streets turned into rivers, AFP wrote.

Parisians were urged to stay away from the Seine, which has spilled over its banks in places and at 3:00 a.m. (0100 GMT) Saturday was at 6.09 meters (just under 20 feet) above normal levels.

French President François Hollande made a late night visit to the Louvre, where dozens of volunteers worked through the night to save some of the 38,000 artworks thought to be at risk.

The Seine's famous tree-lined riverside walkways, usually the evening haunt of strolling couples, were inundated with several feet of eddying water.

France's environment ministry said the river is expected to peak at between 6.10-6.40 meters during the night — potentially higher than the floods of 1982. The record remains the 8.62 meters reached in 1910.

Paris firefighters warned people to keep away from dangerous parts of the river, but crowds still gathered on the famous Pont du Carrousel bridge to watch the swirling waters.

A small number of basement flats in the capital began to flood on Friday and the environment ministry warned some residents in areas of western Paris might have to be evacuated.


Museums prepare for worst

On opposite banks of the river, the Louvre and Orsay museums, which see a combined total of 12.5 million visitors a year, closed their doors Friday so that artworks could be moved to higher floors.

The Orsay, which houses a world-renowned collection of 19th and early 20th  century art, said it would remain closed until June 7.

The Grand Palais exhibition center also shut Friday, as did two of the National Library's sites.

Eva Palomares, a holidaymaker from the Italian city of Milan, said she was disappointed to be unable to visit the Louvre but added: "The star today is the Seine. You have to feel its angry rumble."

More than 20,000 people have been evacuated in France since the weekend and around 18,000 homes are without power, the electricity distribution network Enedis said.

Hollande said a state of 'natural catastrophe' would be declared when the cabinet meets next Wednesday, a necessary step to trigger compensation payments.

Losses across France could reach more than €600 million ($680 million), said Bernard Spitz of France's association of insurers.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the government would meet insurance industry representatives on Monday to ensure that flood victims would be 'rapidly and efficiently' compensated for their loss.

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