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France flooding threatened Paris masterpieces

Posted On: Jun. 9, 2016 12:00 AM CST

Heavy flooding in France forced the Louvre Museum and Musee d'Orsay in Paris to temporarily close their doors as the Seine overflowed its bank and crested to its highest level since 1982, AIR Worldwide said.

The Louvre, home to the “Mona Lisa,” moved 150,000 artworks to safety and reopened on Wednesday, and local news reports said the Musee d'Orsay, which houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, also reopened, Boston-based AIR said Wednesday in a statement.

The Seine crested at 20 feet above normal on Saturday, the highest level since 1982 when it reached 20.3 feet, but short of the Paris record level set in 1910 of 28.3 feet.

However, AIR said that 46.6 miles south of Paris, in Nemours, a commune that borders the department of Loiret, the waters of the Loing River, a tributary of the Seine, surpassed 1910 flood levels, causing 3,000 out of a total 13,000 inhabitants to be evacuated.

Hundreds of towns and villages were hit by the flooding in France, with many in central France experiencing the worst flooding since 1910 causing about 2,000 to be evacuated across the area, in addition to the 3,000 in Nemours.

AIR said that between May 27 and June 7, widespread localized flooding, caused by slow moving thunderstorms with high precipitation associated with surface lows, slammed communities in Belgium, north-central France, and Germany.

In the Paris and Loiret regions, more than 24,000 homes lost power, and several thousand of them are still without it.

The flooding in Paris disrupted rail transportation, including some of the main commuter lines, compounding service interruption caused by strikes that had left only a fraction of France's trains running when the flooding began.

Tourist boat cruises were also halted, and roads leading into Paris and within the capital were flooded, which worsened travel conditions.

Some areas in central France received up to 16 inches of rain over the 10-day period ending June 5, amounting to as much as 60% of the average annual precipitation.

AIR said it expects much of the loss from this event to occur outside of the floodplains. Smaller claims from off-floodplain losses could add up to a significant portion of total insurance losses, AIR said.