Eyes on Paris but other areas bear brunt of floods in France

Eyes on Paris but other areas bear brunt of floods in France
Residents in Longjumeau feel abandoned. Photo: AFP
While most of the focus has been on the relentless rise of the River Seine in Paris the main devastation caused by the flooding has been outside the capital.

The Louvre may be evacuating artworks and tourist cruises may have been suspended but the French capital should be largely spared the kind of damage that has occurred in areas outside Paris.

While it could take a so-called “flood of the century” to really cause a catastrophe in Paris, the flood defenses of towns outside the capital are less fortified and as result the water has poured in.

The départements of Loiret and Seine-et-Marne to the south and south east of Paris have been two of the worst hit areas with the floodwaters rising to higher levels than in the great flood of 1910. It is here where the government are likely to declare states of “natural disaster” rather than Paris, unless the waters keep rising that is.

Residents in the département of Yvelines to the west of Paris are now fearing the worst.

As well as residents who have seen their homes submerged, France's long suffering farmers have also seen their fields disappear under flood water. They too will be left counting the high cost of the floods.

On Friday they called on the state to make finances available to compensate farmers whose crops have been ruined.

The centres of towns like Longjumeau, Montargis and Nemours to the south of Paris have all been left submerged in murky flood waters and were only navigable by boat.

Many smaller towns and communities have been left without drinking water, with officials having to distribute cases of bottled mineral water instead. 

Shops and businesses have been wrecked and thousands of families have had to abandon their homes and sleep in sports centres. 

In Longjumeau, 25km to the south of Paris, some residents there who have seen their homes inundated have felt abandoned while attention switches to the capital, further downstream.

(A resident is taken out of her home in Longjumeau by firefighters. Photo: AFP)

“We were not helped at all, I feel totally abandoned. The only firefighter we passed told us: ‘they want to protect Paris’, but what about us?” a resident told L’Express magazine.

As if hearing their call the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls was scheduled to visit Longjumeau on Friday, where water levels hit 1.5 metres.

Some residents have refused to leave their homes with the local mayor warning that thieves had been taking advantage of the chaos to pilfer belongings from homes.

A local authority chief said the crisis in the area would continue and that around 5,000 had been hit by floods as well as power cuts.

In Nemours, where over a third of the 13,000 residents had to be evacuated after the River Loing burst its banks, locals talk of a pungent smell of petrol that has left the town centre smelling like a fuel station.

“I have lived here for 60 years and I have never seen anything like this,” said one resident of Nemours. 

“The centre of town is totally under water, all the shops are destroyed.”

PM Valls described the situation in Nemours as tense and difficult.

Residents in the flooded Nemours, north of Paris. Photo: AFP

(People pump water out their flooded house in the city of Orleans. AFP)

In Montargis, rubbish bags, placed outside by residents before the flood waters came, float through the centre of the town along with stock from the local shops. The water levels rose so high that only the tops of cars could be seen.

Across the areas of central France worst hit by flooding, firefighters have been called out over 10,000 times and tens of thousands of homes have been left without power.

Recognising the scale of the devastation in parts of central France, President François Hollande declared that a state of “natural disaster” would be declared in those affected areas in coming days, meaning residents would be covered by insurance and local authorities can seek state financial aid in the clear up.

On Thursday a man on horseback died after he was swept away in a river in Evry-Gregy-sur-Yerre, southeast of Paris and France’s environment minister Ségolene Royal said more victims of the floods may be discovered when water levels drop.

“Rebuilding work in those areas hit by flooding will be a slow process,” the minister warned.

As the flood waters are expected to drop throughout the weekend the clean-up will begin in earnest as will the insurance form filling.

Back in Paris officials at the Louvre should be able to move their artworks back down stairs at some point next week but it will be a while before residents can return to normal in those towns outside Paris.

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