PARIS: Paris was on high alert on Saturday as the swollen Seine continued to creep higher, with forecasters warning the river could stay high throughout next week, especially if more rain is dumped on France.
Leaks started to appear in some basements on Friday, while some residents on the city’s outskirts were forced to travel by boat through waterlogged streets.
The Louvre, Musee d’Orsay and Orangerie museums are on high alert, with the lower level of the Louvre’s Islamic arts wing closed to visitors.
A health center in the northwestern Parisian suburbs, where 86 patients were receiving care, had to be evacuated on Friday.
Meanwhile over 650 people were evacuated from their homes in the Paris region, according to police.
The Vigicrues flooding agency scaled back its peak predictions for the river in the capital, saying it will top out at 5.8 to 6 meters (19 to 19.7 feet) between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, compared with 6.2 meters previously.
But that would still bring the Seine four to five meters above its normal height, causing headaches for commuters as well as people living near its overflowing banks.
It’s enough to worry Joao de Macedo, janitor at a residential building in Paris’s upscale 16th Arrondissement.
“There are six studios in the basement, and we’ve had to set up blocks outside to keep the windows from breaking and covering everything in water,” he said.
Inside the studios, tables and dressers have been lifted off the floor as water seeps through the walls.
Outside, where the river was nearly lapping the tires of parked vehicles, a young woman said it was “great to see ducks instead of cars.”
The December-January period is now the third-wettest on record since data collection began in 1900, according to France’s meteorological service.
All boat traffic on the Seine in Paris and upstream has been stopped, keeping tourists off the capital’s famed sightseeing boats.
But forecasters said the rainfall in recent days had not been enough to push the Seine beyond their expectations.
“We’ve been reassured, it will keep the water level high but not increase it,” said Francois Duquesne of the Vigicrues floods agency, though he warned of the risk for more rain next week.