Rivers in France, Germany burst their banks; floods kill 6

Thousands are trapped in homes or cars, and floods forced everything from subway lines to castles to shut down

PARIS — Rivers in Europe have burst their banks from Paris to the southern German state of Bavaria, killing six people, trapping thousands more in homes or cars and forcing everything from subway lines to castles to shut down.

In France, authorities say areas along the Loing River, a tributary of the Seine River, are facing water levels unseen since 1910, when a massive flood swamped the French capital. About 25,000 homes were without electricity because of floods in the Paris region and central France.

And it isn’t over — more rain is forecast for the coming days, and authorities in Paris predict the Seine River won’t reach its peak until Friday.

France’s meteorological service said Thursday that severe flood watches are in effect in two Paris-area regions: Loiret and Seine-et-Marne. Eight more regions, including three on the German border, face flood warnings as well.

Tourist boat cruises have been cancelled and several roads in and around the capital are under water. Days of heavy rains have caused exceptional delays to the French Open tennis tournament and may force it into a third week.

Authorities on Thursday shut down a suburban train line that runs alongside the Seine in central Paris, serving popular tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower, the Invalides plaza and the Orsay museum. Other subway lines in Paris are running normally despite the flooding.

In the Loire valley in central France, the renowned castles of Chambord and Azay-le-Rideau were closed to the public because of floods in their parks.

Fara Pelarek, 44-year-old Australian tourist visiting Paris, said she was “very surprised” to see the Seine so high.

“I remember walking down below (before) and it was very easy,” she said. “In a way, it’s kind of nature taking over.”

The rains that have fallen across Western Europe this week have already killed six people, including an 86-year-old woman who died in her flooded home in Souppes-sur-Loing southeast of Paris, the French government said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, is promising continued help for flooded areas of southern Germany, where five people were killed amid floods that swept Wednesday through the southern towns of Simbach am Inn and Triftern near the Austrian border.

Merkel told reporters in Berlin on Thursday that she “mourns for those for whom the help has come too late, who lost their lives in the flooding.”

She says disaster relief is on hand to help control the floods and to rebuild damaged areas. The floodwaters in Bavaria receded Thursday and disaster relief crews were helping to clear the wreckage, but there are warnings of more storms.

For the second day, emergency workers evacuated residents in Nemours, 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Paris, the hardest-hit site in France.

In the southern Paris suburb of Longjumeau, fire fighters drove in a Land Rover through flooded streets, telling trapped residents to wait for help. On the town’s main street, shopkeepers tried to sweep the water out of their shops.

Belgium also endured a fourth day of heavy rain, with flooding reported in several areas. After widespread flooding hit northern Antwerp and the west of Flanders early in the week, waters kept rising in eastern areas around Limburg and Liege. Several neighbourhoods have had to be evacuated as cellars flooded and streets were submerged.

A major train line linking eastern Limburg to the capital of Brussels had to be temporarily suspended early Thursday.