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Paris readies for flood of century

City and government officials prepare plans for flood that will hit five million with 1.5million without drinking water

PARIS city officials are preparing emergency plans to deal with the “flood of the century” – which they are certain is on its way, but they don’t know when.

Working with the government, other local authorities and public utilities, they have already run a test on how they would react to the rise of floodwaters, but the catastrophe scenario they prepared is alarming.

Taking the last severe flood, in 1910, as an example, they said that up to five million people would be affected, with one million without electricity, and 1.5million without drinking water.

Paris would not be alone in being under water and 500 communes in Ile-de-France would be hit with 870,000 flooded out of their homes for six to eight weeks, 60,000 businesses affected, 63,000 jobs destroyed.

Virtually the whole of the Métro would be flooded and a large part of the RER network under water, the Périphérique impassible as are large areas of autoroute. Petrol would be rationed.

The potential cost runs at up to €40 billion.

Serge Garrigues, who oversees the Paris and Ile-de-France zone at the Préfecture de Police, told Le Monde: “We will have the flood of the century. It’s certain. The only thing we don’t know is when. The maximum flood will last between 10 and 20 days, during which we will be able to do nothing, just survive. Things will not return to normal for at least 45 days.”

Preparations to cope with the flood have seen four artificial reservoirs created to regulate the flow of the Seine and Marne, the riverbed dredged and movable reinforced sections ready to be placed on riverside parapets to increase the height of the walls. Emergency evacuation plans are being prepared.

In mid-February this year river transport on the Seine was severely restricted and the Bateaux Mouches tourist boats banned from going under the bridges leading to the Ile-de-la-Cité as the river was in spate. It reached 3.86metres on the official flood marker at Pont d'Austerlitz – the flood of the century is expected to exceed 8.6m.

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