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Paris flooding: River Seine bursts its banks as France prepares to host Euro 2016

After terrorist attacks and widespread strikes, large parts of the country now face severe flooding nine days before the start of the Euro 2016 football championship.

Although the river Seine has reached the top of the arches of its bridges and some of the Paris quays have been closed, experts say there is no immediate threat to the French capital.

Large areas of north central France, within the catchment area of the river Seine, are already severely flooded after the wettest May since the 1880s.

The front page of newspaper Le Parisien carried the headline: “Il ne manquent plus que ça…” (That’s all we needed.)

A catastrophic Paris flood is is historically overdue.

The last happened in January 1910 and continued  for 45 days. In its long history, the city has been flooded by the Seine on average once a century.

The height of the flood in 1910 was measured as 8.62 metres at the Pont d’Austerlitz in eastern Paris. Its level at the same spot on Tuesday was 3.82 metres.

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Fears grow ahead of Euro 2016 with River Seine set to rise further 

Experts predict that as the flood water arrives from the south, the Seine could reach 5.2 metres by Friday of this week.

“It would need a very rainy month of June before the situation became really worrying,” Vazken Andreassian, a hydrologist with France’s institute for environmental an agricultural research, said today.

The latest weather forecasts suggest that a spell of drier weather should begin this weekend.

All the same, the Paris town hall and police department have started a “flood crisis” centre to monitor the level of the river.

The lower quays of the river have been closed to pedestrians. Parts of the Voie Georges Pompidou, the fast riverside road on the right bank of the Seine, have been closed.

In the Loiret and Yonne departments south of Paris, dozens of towns have been flooded and roads, including a section of the main A10 motorway from Paris to the south west, have been closed.

Schools have been shut down. Four hundred prisoners had to be evacuated from a remand centre at Saran.

In a diagonal band of territory from the Bay of Biscay to the Belgian border, rainfall in the month of May was two and a a half times the normal level.

In the country as whole, May was the wettest recorded since 1882.

On the strikes front, the situation remains tense. An indefinite rail strike which began on Tuesday forced the cancellation of around half scheduled trains today: four in ten high speed trains, six in ten regional trains and up to nine in ten commuter trains in the Paris area. 

Eurostar services to London were not affected.

The state-owned rail company, the SNCF, hopes that fewer workers will join the strike on Thursday.

The widespread petrol and diesel shortages which afflicted France last week have eased.

Although strikes at refineries continue, most filling stations were reported to now have normal supplies.

The industrial action is part of a stand-off between the centre-left government and militant trades unions over plans to reform France’s employment laws.

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