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Paris remains on flood alert as Seine rises

Posted January 27, 2018 3:26 a.m. EST
Updated January 27, 2018 8:17 a.m. EST

— Paris remained on flood alert Saturday after the swollen Seine burst its banks, leaving streets flooded and forcing part of the lower level of the famous Louvre Museum to close.

The river overflowed in some places this week when water levels reached just over 5 meters (nearly 17 feet).

There were fears the water could peak at 6.2 meters Saturday, but the French meteorological service Meteo France said it was unlikely after the rain stopped Friday.

The Seine is now forecast to reach 5.95 meters at its highest, Paris police said, which will happen overnight from Sunday into Monday. That's lower than the last serious flooding in June 2016 when water levels reached 6.1 meters and riverside museums were forced to move artwork from their basements.

Water levels by the central Austerlitz Bridge had reached 5.7 meters Saturday morning, according to the official Vigicrues flood agency website.

Flooding has disrupted some metro and train services in the city, and some walkways and roads near the river are closed.

Aerial footage filmed by a Paris police drone and posted on Twitter shows the extent of the flooding.

The Louvre, which is next to the river, partially closed one wing as a cautionary measure. Louvre officials told CNN that the museum expects the lower level of the Islamic wing to remain closed until at least Monday, and they have protocols in place to protect valuable artwork should the situation deteriorate.

Nevertheless, Parisians appeared unfazed, saying the deluge had not affected their daily lives too much.

Water levels in the rain-swollen Seine are nowhere near those reached in 1910 when waters rose to nearly 28 feet, forcing residents to evacuate.

Colombe Brossel, the deputy Paris mayor, told CNN the city had learned from past mistakes, but that more needs to be done to adapt to climate change.

"Two floodings of the Seine river in less than two years -- we have to change, we have to change the way we build this city," Brossel said. "We have to understand that climatic change is not a word, it's a reality."

Upstream of Paris, water levels in the Marne -- the river that joins the Seine as it enters the city -- continue slowly to creep higher, Paris police said. Downstream of the French capital, the Seine continues to rise, and levels are higher than in 2016.

Altogether, the rising water levels have affected 240 municipalities, and 1,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, police said. Patients have also been moved from two hospitals.

The town of Condé-Sainte-Libiaire is among those affected, with roads turned into rivers and homes left almost submerged.