Louvre closes to save artwork as deadly floods sweep Europe

Firefighters evacuate people in a small boat south of Paris. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

Firefighters evacuate people in a small boat south of Paris. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

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The Louvre museum in Paris has closed to the public as staff remove artworks from rooms threatened by rising water from the Seine as deadly floods sweep across Europe.

Staff at the world’s most visited museum said the closure would allow staff to move works to higher parts of the gallery,

French President Francois Hollande, meanwhile, said a “natural disaster” would be formally declared next week for areas most affected by the flooding.

Floods have inundated parts of France, Germany and Belgium this week, killing six people and trapping thousands in homes or cars as rivers burst their banks from Paris to Germany’s southern state of Bavaria.

Authorities say areas along the Loing River, a tributary of the Seine, are facing water levels unseen since 1910, when a massive flood swamped the French capital.

About 25,000 homes are without electricity because of floods in the Paris region and central France and more rain is forecast for the coming days, and authorities in predicted the Seine River would not reach its peak until today.

Tourist boat cruises have been cancelled and several roads in and around the capital are under water. Days of heavy rain have caused exceptional delays to the French Open tennis tournament and may force it into a third week.

Authorities shut down a suburban train line that runs alongside the Seine in central Paris, serving popular tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower, the Invalides plaza and the Orsay museum. Other subway lines in Paris are running normally despite the flooding.

In the Loire valley in central France, the renowned castles of Chambord and Azay-le-Rideau were closed to the public because of floods in their parks.

Fara Pelarek, 44-year-old Australian tourist visiting Paris, said she was “very surprised” to see the Seine so high.

“I remember walking down below [before] and it was very easy,” she said.

“In a way, it’s kind of nature taking over.”

Among the victims of the rain that has fallen across western Europe this week are an 86-year-old woman who died in her flooded home in Souppes-sur-Loing south-east of Paris.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, is promising continued help for flooded areas of southern Germany, where five people were killed amid floods that swept through the southern towns of Simbach am Inn and Triftern near the Austrian border on Wednesday.

Mrs Merkel told reporters in Berlin that she “mourns for those for whom the help has come too late, who lost their lives in the flooding”.

She said disaster relief is on hand to help control the floods and rebuild damaged areas. The floodwaters in Bavaria receded yesterday and disaster relief crews were helping to clear the wreckage, but there are warnings of more storms.

Belgium also endured a fourth day of heavy rain. After widespread flooding hit northern Antwerp and the west of Flanders early in the week, waters kept rising in eastern areas.

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