Paris magic blighted by floods

3rd June 2016, Comments 0 comments

The trappings of a dream Paris holiday -- a visit to the Louvre, cruising the Seine under the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower -- have been drowned under torrential rainfall this week.

With floodwaters breaching the banks of the Seine river, tourists have been greeted by thick grey clouds and emergency closures at must-see destinations in the latest crisis to hit the City of Light.

"We only have a day and a half here and we were going to go the Louvre today and we were going to go on the boat cruise for dinner tonight, and they were both cancelled," said Elle Yarborough, an English teacher visiting from Boston in the United States with her husband Joseph.

"But we're still happy to be in Paris -- we've never been before," she added, cheerily.

Two Scottish sisters, Alison and Susan McSheaffrey, said they were "very disappointed" to find the riverside Musee d'Orsay closed as part of the emergency measures.

"We are in Paris for the 70th birthday of our father and he is very disappointed too, because he loves Impressionism," said Alison.

Nearby, Parisians pulled off the road and joggers stopped in their tracks to take pictures of the swollen river, as its muddy waters carried off branches and debris, and sightseeing boats were replaced by firemen whizzing past on speedboats.

The water skimmed the city's iconic stone bridges, drowning walkways which at this time of year are usually the reserve of picnicking Parisians.

Some locals saw the freak weather as a chance to get philosophical.

"It's beautiful. It is a reminder that nature is more powerful than man and we cannot do anything, only wait," said Gabriel Riboulet, a 26-year-old entrepreneur, as he pulled his bicycle over to take a picture.

- 'A real catastrophe' -

Others were more concerned, such as Pascal Derby, 62, who works at a bank along the river.

"It is worrying," he said as he took a photograph of the water rushing under a bridge.

His employers have restricted parking in the basement of the bank. In a city where much of the parking is underground, floods can be particularly deadly for motorists.

Derby said the bank had installed massive pumps in the basement two years ago, as many have feared a flood like the great deluge of 1910 was long overdue.

In March, the city of Paris carried out days of exercises to prepare for such an event.

"It is sad, I keep thinking of the people in the suburbs. It must be terrible for them, many of them don't have a lot of money, it is a real catastrophe," he told AFP, referring to riverside towns to the south of Paris which have borne the brunt of the flooding.

But some tourists said they had seen worse back home.

"I'm taking photos to send to my parents in China, but over there they have enormous floods at the moment," said Coco Wu, 40, as she walked across the Alma Bridge near the Eiffel Tower.

Nonetheless, the floods are yet another crisis for a city that has been hit by a grim run of turmoil in recent months -- from last year's terrorist attacks, to a spate of often violent labour protests.

"It is really bad, we don't need this now with all the constant strikes, the Vigipirate plan," said Derby, referring to the high alert imposed after the terror attacks.

"All the authorities are stretched -- the police, firemen -- we need to honour them. It is a nightmare."

© 2016 AFP

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