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In Photos: Torrential Downpours in France Force Art Evacuation at Louvre, Submerge Roads

Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes as water levels continue to rise due to sustained heavy rain.

by VICE News
Jun 2 2016, 5:30pm

[Tutte le foto di Étienne Rouillon/VICE News]

Several departments in France remained on high alert Thursday, as national French meteorological service Météo-France predicted more heavy rain in the coming days.

The downpour has already caused severe flooding across the country, and in Paris, the river Seine burst its banks, submerging roads and walkways along the embankment.

Addressing French mayors at an event Thursday, President François Hollande said that the government would declare the flooding a state of natural disaster at the next Council of Ministers, on Wednesday.

Speaking to AFP Wednesday, Météo-France meteorologist François Jobard described the deluge as "exceptional," and said that such dire weather conditions occurred "on average [once] every 100 years."

In Paris, the Seine rose by nearly five meters, and officials predict the water could reach 16 feet by the weekend. In other areas, the water level has risen to levels not recorded since 1910, when torrential rains caused the capital to flood.

In a statement released Thursday, Paris' famed Louvre museum announced it would be closed to the public tomorrow, to allow art handlers to move some of the 250,000 works of art stored in the basement to the museum's upper levels.

Heavy rains have caused the river Seine to rise, and flood the otherwise busy roads along the embankments.

In some neighborhoods of the 16th Arrondissement, the water had reached residential buildings by Thursday.

Firefighters search a submerged building site for equipment and to make sure no one has been trapped by the water.

Police officers take pictures of the Zouave statue on Pont de l'Alma bridge. The statue — which, on Thursday, was knee-deep in water — serves as an unofficial high water market for Paris residents.

Speaking at the Interdepartmental Operations Center for Crisis Management (COGIC) Thursday morning, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that, "The situation remains tense, difficult, in several areas" of the country.

According to Météo-France's latest weather report, the department of Seine-et-Marne, to the east of Paris, was still on red alert Thursday due to the heavy risk of flooding. Six other departments in the Île-de-France and Centre regions remain on an orange level of alert.

AFP has reported that 5,000 people have had to be evacuated in France since Sunday. Enedis, which manages electricity distribution for 95 percent of the territory, said that 10,000 homes were without electricity.

In Longjumeau, a commune to the south of Paris, the center of town was completely submerged Thursday, according to AFP. The mayor, Sandrine Gelot, said that in some areas of the town, the water level had risen to 1.5 meters. More than 2,500 homes were without power Wednesday, and nearly 200 residents had to be evacuated.

In Corbeil-Essonnes, a small town in the southwest suburbs of Paris, where the Essonne river joins the Seine, the mayor told AFP that the two was "bracing for a shock" as levels continued to rise Thursday.

Firefighters and police officers help barge-dwellers secure their houseboat during the flooding.

Firefighters inspect an area that is usually crowded with tourists, waiting to board boats to cruise down the Seine.

A road has vanished under the water. Boats are no longer allowed to navigate down the river, since the high water level makes it impossible to pass under the many bridges that dot the Seine.

Île-de-France Regional Council President Valérie Pécresse announced Thursday that she had set up a one million euro emergency fund to help areas affected by the flooding.

The prime minister also announced that he had set up "an exceptional support fund" for districts hurt by the downpour, and promised a quick response from the authorities.

On Thursday morning, Valls traveled to Nemours, a town to the southeast of Paris that was particularly affected by the torrential downpour. The town lost access to power and to drinking water, and 2,000 residents had to be evacuated overnight on Wednesday, AFP reported. In the worst hit area of the town, the water rose to more than 12 feet — higher than levels recorded during the Great Flood of 1910. By Thursday morning, however, the flood waters had slightly receded in the center of town.

In the Loiret department, south of Paris, the equivalent of three and a half months of rain fell in three days, and two thirds of the town was underwater. Nearly 300 firefighters responded to more than 2,000 calls in the area since the start of the heavy rains.

Four people were killed as flooding also hit Austria and Germany, AFP reported.

All photos are by Étienne Rouillon for VICE News.Follow him on Twitter: @rouillonetienne

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This article originally appeared in VICE News' French edition.