Paris flood 2018: River Seine threatens wine cellars and museums as it nears record high

Flooding comes as experts warn city must improve its resilience against such events or risk ‘serious economic and social consequences’

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Saturday 27 January 2018 17:28
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Paris police release drone footage of river Seine surge

Floodwaters have approached their peak in Paris, after the River Seine burst its banks earlier this week.

The river is expected to peak at around 6 metres (19ft 8in) on Sunday, following a period of unusually heavy rain. Normally, the river level is around 1.5 metres.

Levels are expected to stay just below the exceptional 6.1 metre floods seen in 2016.

Flooding has struck the region in the same week the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a report calling for improvements to prevent flooding in Paris and the Seine basin.

The rain-swollen Seine has already engulfed scenic quays and threatened wine cellars and museum basements, as well as forcing a halt to all boat traffic in Paris, including tourist cruises.

Some quay-side restaurants were submerged, and some roads and parks were closed as a precautionary measure – along with the bottom floor of the Louvre Museum.

Groundwater was also seeping into some Paris cellars, and authorities warned residents of some neighbourhoods to remove any valuables.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated along the Seine as floods caused significant damage in Paris suburbs in recent days, but no deaths or injuries have been reported.

However, authorities said on Saturday that the flooding won’t be as bad as forecast earlier this week.

Flood levels are still some way off the level reached in the 1910 “flood of the century”, when the river rose to 8.6 metres.

Nevertheless, the flooding follows a report by the OECD warning that Paris must prepare for an event “similar to the flood disaster of 1910”.

According to the report, such an incident could affect up to 5 million people and cause up to €30bn (£26.3bn) worth of damage.

“The impact on Paris of a major flood would be much greater today than a century ago, with serious economic and social consequences on top of the temporary disruption and material losses,” said Dr Rolf Alter, director of the OECD’s public governance and territorial development directorate.

“The better Paris prepares itself to manage this risk and improve its resilience, the less vulnerable it will be, to the benefit of the city and the country.”

Attributing individual events to climate change is complicated, but scientists are increasingly confident in making direct links between such changes and extreme weather events, including the high levels of rainfall seen in Paris.

“Because of climate change, we can expect floods in the Seine basin to be at least as frequent as they are right now,” Dr Florence Habets, a senior researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, told The New York Times.

“No matter what we say, the more we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the more we reduce our impact on droughts and floods.”

For the time being, however, Parisians seemed to be taking the high water and closures in their stride.

“I understand that people might fear the floods because of the strength of the current but here we are in a port, no current, so there is no fear,” said Maxime Potier, an amateur fisherman casting his line from the Arsenal Port in eastern Paris.

Additional reporting by AP

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