Somme affected by severe flooding

Somme awash with worst floods in more than a century after six months of rain
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Somme area of northern France is bracing itself for a renewed ordeal after six weeks of the worst flooding in more than a century.

The Somme area of northern France is bracing itself for a renewed ordeal after six weeks of the worst flooding in more than a century.

Further torrential rain on Thursday and high tides threatened to inundate once again parts of the town of Abbeville and scores of nearby villages which have been wholly or partly under water since the end of March.

Hopes rose last week that the worst of the flooding might be over, partly as a result of the use of three, giant pumps to push the water towards the sea.

Streets and houses which had been under water for six weeks began to dry out. But the level of the river Somme and the Somme canal rose again on Friday and Saturday.

The causes of the flooding remain unclear. Northern and western France have suffered record rainfall in six out of the last seven months; there has been severe flooding in other areas, including the Seine valley, but nowhere else has been stricken as badly as the western Somme.

Hydrologists say the water table has risen to ground level with alarming speed. From the end of March, streams which had disappeared more than a century ago returned as raging torrents. Villages and part of Abbeville abruptly found themselves in the middle of a shallow lake. The experts blame a combination of the record rainfall, new agricultural methods, intensive building of new houses and higher than normal tides in the Somme estuary.

In Italy, the Domus Aurea, the former pleasure palace of the Roman emperor Nero, is the latest victim of the heavy rains that have caused flooding in the centre of the country.

A chunk of the vault in one of the 32 remaining rooms collapsed over the weekend after persistent rain in Rome. The underground monument has been closed to tourists but is due to reopen tomorrow.

The Domus Aurea (Golden House) opened to the public two years ago after 20 years of restoration. But archaeologists have warned of the fragility of the popular tourist attraction, which lies beneath the Colle Oppio park, facing the Colosseum. Successive Roman rulers tried to stamp out Nero's architectural marvel, building public baths over the top of it.

A 20m stretch of the Aurelian Walls, built in the third century BC to protect Rome from invaders, collapsed last month after three days of heavy rain.

The local cultural superintendent, Adriano La Regina, explained that this particular vault was exceptionally high and therefore close to the land surface and subject to infiltration. He said a waterproofing project was under way, but that "only 10 percent of the surface" has so far been completed.

Unseasonal storms and heavy rainfall have caused disruption in central Italy. Villages near Modena are isolated after floods and a hospital has been cut off.