Thousands evacuated as floods batter Paris region

The rising waters of the Seine overflowed riverbanks, roads and rail tracks across Paris on Thursday, forcing authorities at the Louvre to do something they have not done in generations: hurriedly move precious artworks to higher ground.

Water levels at the famous river that winds through the French capital are expected to peak Friday sometime about noon. Paris police upgraded their flood warning Thursday to “orange” — the second-highest level — for areas near the Seine, which means they believe the floods could have “a significant impact” on buildings and people.

The Louvre Museum announced it will be closed Friday to remove artworks from rooms threatened by the rising waters, preventatively shifting them upstairs. Its most famous painting, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” is staying put on an upper floor.

The Orsay museum, on the left bank of the Seine, will also be closed Friday to prepare for potential flooding.

A spokeswoman at the Louvre said museum had not taken such precautions in its modern history — since its 1993 renovation. Some underground storerooms created during the renovation are particularly vulnerable to flood risks.

She spoke on condition of anonymity in line with the museum’s policy.

The Louvre did move art to higher floors in the flood that devastated Paris in 1910, but authorities were still checking to see if similar actions had been taken from then to 1993.

About 200,000 artworks are located in flood-risk areas, mostly in storerooms.

European rivers have burst their banks this week from Paris to the southern German state of Bavaria, killing six people, trapping thousands and forcing everything from subway lines to castles to museums to shut down.

Tourist boat cruises in Paris have been cancelled and roads in and around the French capital are under water. A suburban train line that runs alongside the Seine in central Paris, serving popular tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower, the Invalides plaza and the Orsay museum, was shut down.

Days of heavy rains have caused exceptional delays to the French Open tennis tournament and may force it into a third week.

France’s meteorological service said Thursday that severe flood watches remained in effect in one Paris-area region: Seine-et-Marne. Nine more regions in central France, including Paris, were facing flood warnings as well. (AP)

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