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 Tuesday, 24 December, 2002, 16:54 GMT
Paris braces for flood surge
Flooded River Seine
Officials fear the Seine could repeat last year's floods

Heavy rain in France has caused a surge in the level of the River Seine in Paris, prompting a number of museums and hospitals to begin urgent preparations in case of serious floods.

The authorities are reported to be keeping a nervous eye on the toes of the famous Zouave statue next to the Pont d'Alma.

They say that if the toes become wet from the rising waters of the Seine, Paris is likely to be in big trouble and a flood alert will ensue.

The Zouave statue - of a 19th Century French Algerian soldier - has suffered the indignity of being submerged up to his hips on three occasions in the last hundred years; in 1910, 1924 and 1955.

Saturated

Each time the city suffered serious flooding, and the warning bells have sounded as soon as the River Seine laps over his feet.

Experts are warning that three consecutive years of heavy winter rains have saturated the subsoil around Paris, so the Zouave, and much of central Paris, could soon be in for another ducking.

Prague flood
Prague's devastation is spurring Paris officials into action
Areas likely to be inundated include the parliament, the main train stations and the homes of much of the nation's cultural heritage, including the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay.

Still vivid in everybody's memories is the devastation this year in Prague and other central European cities when it was left too late to rescue many art treasures.

So the Parisian riverside museums are being told to take their valuables out of basements now rather than later.

Hospitals too are moving their expensive heavy equipment out of underground areas and to prepare for the impending deluge.


European havoc

Germany ravaged

Prague drama

Freak phenomenon?

FORUM

TALKING POINT
See also:

12 Sep 02 | Europe
04 Sep 02 | Europe
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