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WEATHER

Flood waters rise across much of France (and more rain is coming)

Rivers are still swelling in France leaving swathes of the country on alert for floods and transport links shut down. And if that wasn't bad enough forecasters are predicting even more rain for the coming days.

Flood waters rise across much of France (and more rain is coming)
Ornans in eastern France. Photo: AFP
In total 23 departments were on orange alert — the second highest warning — due to the continuing flood risk in their area according to national weather agency Meteo France
 
Orange is the second highest alert and when in place people are advised “to be very vigilant” due to the danger. The public are advised to stay away from the water's edge. 
 
The departments at risk are: Eure, Seine-Maritime, Yvelines, Paris and the area immediately outside the city known as the “Petite Couronne”, Val d'Oise, Oise, Seine-et-Marne, Aube, Yonne, Nievre, Haute-Marne, Meuse, Vosges, Haute-Saone, Doubs, Jura, Loire, Rhone, Isere and Lot-et-Garonne. 
 
“Rainfall is expected to accumulate until Wednesday evening, so the ongoing floods will continue to spread over the next few days, generating significant overflows on many rivers in the north and east of the country,” announced the environment ministry's Vigicrues flood watch website in its last bulletin published Wednesday morning.
 
And it doesn't look like the end is in sight for the moment, with the website adding that more rain is expected across the country on Thursday.
 
Photo: Meteo France
 
River levels including the Seine in Paris have been rising quickly in recent days. 
 
The river, which has already burst its banks, is expected to continue to rise until Friday when it is set to peak at 6.10 metres –  a peak last reached in 2016 when floods sent riverside museums scrambling to move artworks from their basements, which was the highest level since 1982.
 
 
As a result the city's RER C line has been suspended in central Paris until at least Friday, depriving commuters of one of the French capital's major train routes. 
 
Metro lines have also been impacted due to rising water levels.
 
On Tuesday the City Hall set up a crisis cell to organise emergency efforts while all river traffic was suspended and a major train line will be suspended from Wednesday.
 
A car runs on the flooded banks of River Seine. Photo: AFP 
 
Meanwhile in the eastern department of Jura, school transport has been cancelled in 12 villages due to extreme floods in the area. 
 
Jura and Doubs in eastern France were on red alert for flood risk on Monday although that was lowered to orange on Tuesday. 
 
Local authorities confirmed that the waters are receding “slowly” even though the water levels are still very high.
 
In Strasbourg, regional authorities announced they were opening an emergency containment zone to stop the Rhine overflowing after days of snow and heavy downpours.
 
The 600-hectare polder at Erstein near the German border was evacuated Monday and can take in up to 7.8 million cubic metres of water diverted from the massive river, authorities said.
 
Further along the border, the medieval Swiss town of St Ursanne has been transformed into a lake, images on RTS television showed, while several mountain train lines have been halted.
 
A mudslide caused a Swiss regional train in Solothurn to derail late Monday, although there were no injuries.
 
French flood agency Vigicrues warned people on the risk of power cuts, saying “even areas that rarely flood” could be inundated.
 
In the eastern town of Ornans, home to 4,000 people, the high street was flooded and the ground floor of the town hall underwater.
 
“We haven't seen a flood like this since 2002,” mayor Sylvain Ducret told AFP.

CLIMATE CRISIS

Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.

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