The heart of Paris is underwater — and the images are a shocking reminder that the city is unprepared

Paris is known as ville lumière – city of lights.

But the French capital looks more like a city of water right now, as the Seine bulges out of its banks. The water is more than five times its normal level.

Rainfall totals in the Paris area have been double the average this winter. The French government said the Seine reached its crest Monday morning in Paris, with the Austerlitz station measuring the water at 5.85 meters (19.2 feet). But although the levels are now expected to descend, the process will be slow – the water is expected to remain above 5.5 meters (18 feet) until at least Wednesday morning. It could take parts of the city’s core weeks to dry out.

The flooding started Tuesday, during Paris’s annual spring fashion show, when the Seine started over-spilling its banks and gushing into neighboring streets.

Take a look at what’s been happening since then:


The flooding, which extended to this man’s home in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, just outside Paris, came after months of historically heavy rains.

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REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

According to French paper Le Monde, this is Paris’s second-wettest winter on record since 1900.


From December 1, 2017, to January 21, 2018, Paris got more than 7 inches of rain — double the amount in a typical year.

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REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

The high waters made work treacherous for this Paris fire-brigade diver, who was checking the mooring ropes of a peniche boat.


You can see how high the river is now (bottom image) in this comparison with August 2016 (top).

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REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

The French government said it will take days, if not weeks, for water levels to recede back to normal levels (below five feet).


At the Louvre museum, which sits beside the river, the lower level of the department of Islamic Art is closed to the public until at least February 1.

Source: Louvre.fr


People living in houseboats had no way to get to the shore. Fortunately, this man found an unconventional way to deliver supplies to a stranded friend.

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REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Flood watchers at the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimated the river rose an inch every hour last week.

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REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Source: OECD


The water is a reminder of another catastrophic flood that hit the region a century ago.

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Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

The flood of 1910 drowned Parisian homes for months, and set off a rash of cases of typhoid and scarlet fever.


In 1910, the river crested nine feet higher than today’s flood levels. Some think Paris is disastrously unprepared for another flood like that one.


Parisians refer to that event as “la grand crue,” the great flood, when more than 14,000 buildings in the city were underwater for two months.

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REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Fire-brigade divers are patrolling Paris’ flooded river. The city’s last big flood, in 2016, killed two people.

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Reuters

Source: The Guardian


It created about $1.24 billion worth of damage.

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Reuters

Source: OECD


This flood isn’t quite as bad as the one in 2016 — flood levels crested about a foot lower this year, according to official records.

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REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

People in Paris have recently started to complain that rats are popping out of the sewers and invading the city.

The Mayor of Paris asked the public on Facebook not to throw away any food that might tempt the rats in public cans.


Paris isn’t the only place in the flood zone, though — Normandy is bracing for its own fallout, as the river waters head north toward the English Channel.

It’s not just the Seine that’s causing trouble. This man in Esbly, a town east of Paris, is dealing with flooding from the Grand Morin river.


At least 242 French towns across the north and east of the country have suffered flood damage so far, the Associated Press reports.

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Reuters/Christian Hartmann

This woman had to be helped to safety by fire brigade divers after she went home to feed animals in a flooded area of Conde-Sainte-Libiaire, near Paris.


Since 2014, Paris has taken several steps to prepare for more big floods.

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REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

But many say that despite recent improvements, the city isn’t ready for another big “hundred-year” flood like the one in 1910.

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REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

A new report from the OECD out just days ago warns that the city needs to spend more to prepare for big floods on the horizon. The OECD says more needs to be done to protect the city’s rails, water production plants, and parts of the electric grid.


Colombe Brossel, a deputy mayor of Paris, told The Washington Post that the city expects flooding to become more common as climate change continues warming the planet and triggering extreme events like droughts, wildfires, and storms.

Source: The Washington Post


Officials say that in order be ready, they’ll need to “reconquer” the Paris flood plains and get more vegetation into the concrete-packed city.

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The Zouave statue watches as the Seine rises.
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REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

“Flooding is a natural phenomenon; it becomes a catastrophe because we humans have put ourselves and our infrastructures in the wrong place,” Sebastien Maire, Paris’s chief resilience officer told the Guardian after the 2016 floods.


Flood-protection plans could include building a fake lake and marshlands upstream from Paris that could take in 55 million cubic meters of water.

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REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

The plan costs an estimated $744.9 million dollars.