Paris on alert as Seine rises higher
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The swollen Seine rose even higher on Sunday, keeping Paris on alert. The river had risen 11 centimetres in 24 hours by Saturday evening, more than four metres above its normal height, causing headaches for commuters as well as people living near its overflowing banks.
Tourists suffered too with the capital's famous Bateaux Mouches rivercraft out of service, and only emergency services authorised to navigate the Seine.
The Vigicrues flooding agency forecasts the river will peak at 5.95 metres (19.3 feet) overnight, not quite reaching the 2016 high of 6.1 metres, when the Louvre museum was forced to shut for four days.
But the world's most visited museum was on high alert Sunday, along with the Musee d’Orsay and Orangerie galleries, with the lower level of the Louvre's Islamic arts wing closed to visitors at least until Monday.
A statue of an Algerian French army soldier from the Crimean War named Zouave that has guarded the river at the Pont d'Alma bridge in central Paris since 1910 was drenched up to the thighs in the muddy waters of the Seine.
Police again warned Parisians against bathing or canoeing in the river, saying it was “forbidden and extremely dangerous”.
Forecasters predict the flooding should peak by the end of the day.
More favourable weather is expected for the week ahead, and Vigicrues has lowered its warning level from orange to yellow in several areas upstream of the capital.
But even once the water levels start to recede, forecasters and officials say it will be a slow process, since much of the ground in northern France is already waterlogged.
“If we’re talking about things getting completely back to normal, that's going to take weeks,” said Jerome Goellner, regional head of environmental services.
Around 1,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in the greater Paris region, according to police, while around 1,500 homes were without electricity.
Some basements in Paris began to see leaks on Friday, and a health centre in the city's northwestern suburbs, where 86 patients were receiving care, was evacuated because of flooding.
The December-January period is now the third wettest on record since data collection began in 1900, according to France's meteorological service.
However, fears of flooding like that of 1910, which saw the Seine rise to 8.62 metres, shutting down much of Paris's basic infrastructure, appeared unfounded.
A main commuter line, the RER C, has halted service at Paris stops indefinitely, and some expressways that run alongside the Seine have been closed.
In Paris the Seine flows through a deep channel, limiting the potential flooding damage to riverside structures.
But several areas on the city's outskirts are under water, such as the southern suburb of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, where some residents were getting around by boat and dozens have been evacuated from their homes.
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