The Louvre Museum in Paris will remain closed Friday to evacuate thousands of paintings and art pieces from the lower floors amid the rising threat of flood from the Seine river.
Only a few hours before the incident, the museum had laughed off the threat to its huge underground vaults, which are secured with anti-flood pumps and sealed waterproof doors. But as the river burst its banks, the management decided to close its exhibits entirely.
The Musee d’Orsay on the opposite bank of the river also announced it will close Thursday night as a precautionary measure.
The Seine, which runs past the Louvre, has risen to over 5 meters the normal levels after torrential rains continued to hit the capital city of France for four days.
Heavy rains in France, Belgium and Germany have left at least 10 people missing and feared dead. The downpour is forecasted to continue through the weekend across parts of central Europe including France and Ukraine.
About 25,000 people are without electricity in central France and around 3,000 people have been evacuated, just from Nemours. The town’s Loing River, a tributary of the Seine, has not risen this much since 1910. The torrential rain itself is the worst on record in May since 1873.
The Loiret department received the equivalent of one month of average rainfall in just a single day. A popular island near the Eiffel tower disappeared under the water and pleasure boats were prohibited from crossing through the French capital.
Motorways and underground rails and roads were closed off in eastern Paris and hundreds of commuters became stranded on the inundated highway before authorities came to their rescue.
“In 60 years of living here I have never seen this,” Sylvette Gounaud, a shopworker in the town, said. “The center of town is totally under water, all the shops are destroyed.”
The unfortunate rainstorm is said to become even worse, just a day before Euro 2016 national football tournament begins. A giant “fan zone” with the capacity to host 100,000 people has been built on the Champs de Mars, but if the flooding levels reach that of the infamous 1910 flood, it would submerge even the fan zone.
President Francois Hollande has declared a state of emergency in the most affected areas and promised money to help with the flood damage.