Rain pummels France; Seine overflows its banks in Paris

Nicolas Garriga
Associated Press

Paris – — Floods devastated regions across France on Wednesday — in some areas, the worst seen in a century or more. The Seine River overflowed its banks, one French town was evacuated, travelers trapped on a submerged highway were rescued by soldiers and boat cruises in Paris were cancelled.

Meteorologists said more bad news is coming — the waters are expected to keep rising for days.

In neighboring Germany, floods hit an area of Bavaria near the Austrian border, inundating some small towns and leaving four people dead.

The French government pressed to rescue thousands of people trapped in homes or cars in provincial towns, while drenched tourists were rearranging plans and schools in one region were shut down.

Emergency workers have carried out more than 8,000 rescue operations from the Belgian border south to Burgundy over the past two days, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Wednesday.

Paris City Hall closed roads along the shores of the Seine from the Left Bank in the east to the Eiffel Tower neighborhood in the west, as water levels rose at least 4.3 meters (14 feet, 1 inch) higher than usual.

Jordan Muller, a 25-year-old from Seattle who is living in Paris, jogged along the Seine quay despite its slippery cobblestones.

“Well, my normal running route is completely gone,” she said. “I usually run up the stairs (toward) the Eiffel Tower. Got to the stairs and they are underwater. So I had to turn around. I have to find a new running route today.”

Signs for the Seine’s popular Bateaux-Mouches tourist boats in French, English and Japanese read “Due to flood waters, all cruises are cancelled.”

Unusually heavy rain has pummeled France and other European countries in recent days, causing exceptional delays at the French Open and forcing the evacuation of two prisons.

The town of Nemours, southeast of Paris, was the worst hit. Authorities were evacuating the center of town Wednesday even as Environment Minister Segolene Royal rushed to the site. Members of a canoe club were among those helping in the rescue, France-Info radio reported.

President Francois Hollande expressed his support for flood victims during a Cabinet meeting, while Cazeneuve said the government is working to protect flood victims and pledged to pay for rescue and cleanup efforts.

Parts of neighboring Germany also have seen storms and heavy rain since the weekend.

In Paris, the rain eased Wednesday but more showers were expected in the evening and through Thursday. City authorities warned residents and visitors to be vigilant around river banks and said high river levels were expected to peak Friday.