With consecutive days of torrential rain in Paris raising the Seine’s water levels to riverbank bursting flood volume, officials at the world famous Louvre museum have decided to close up on Friday to give them time to evacuate their priceless artwork to higher ground in the face of a seemingly inevitable deluge.
The downpours making Paris miserable this week are expected to last over the weekend according to BBC. Already the unusually heavy rains in Europe have damaged much and proven deadly in France and Germany.
As explained on the museum’s Twitter account, the Friday closure of the Louvre, which lies on the north bank of the Seine, aims to facilitate the transfer of works of art from its more vulnerable locations, such as the basement levels, to the upper floors, where they should remain safe if the situation does not deteriorate further.
Another museum, the Musee d’Orsay on the Seine’s south bank, has already closed its doors Thursday to take similar precautionary measures. Both museums have drilled extensive this year to prepare for such emergency action in case of floods. The Louvre’s evacuation plan sees them clearing out their underground reserve within seventy two hours – in a March drill, they successfully moved all their Islamic art pieces from its underground display section in a day. The Musee d’Orsay meanwhile, has a ninety six hour timetable, hence their earlier closure.
French President Francois Hollande has already declared a state of natural disaster in the country’s most flood-affected areas, in a move to quickly release emergency funds to local authorities.
The national meteorological service, Meteo-France, indicated that the worst-flooded waterway has been a Seine tributary, the Loing. Already floodwaters from the river have struck the nearby town of Nemours, 80 kilometers south of Paris, on Thursday. Residents had to be evacuated by rescue workers on boats.
But while The Loing seems to be calming down now, the Seine itself continues its alarming rise, already at five meters its normal level Thursday afternoon. Emergency barriers have been put up along the river after it burst its banks. The waters have already submerged an island close to the Eiffel Tower’s locations, and the riverbank quays have been washed out. The Seine has been closed to traffic from pleasure craft and commercial barges.
This has been a stunning blow to Paris which has been preparing to host the Euro 2016 Football Tournament Friday next week. If the Seine flooding continues unabated, experts believe that a special “fan zone” constructed at the Champs de Mars that could accommodate up to a hundred thousand spectators may well be submerged completely.
The latest Meteo-France forecasts may be a silver lining to all this, as they suggest a period of drier weather to come soon.