Paris riverside trees and benches underwater after Seine overflows

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PARIS (Reuters) - Trees and benches along the Seine were left underwater after the river broke its banks following days of rain, forcing the city to close riverside parks, officials said on Monday.

The Seine rose to 4.2 meters at the Austerlitz measuring station, more than two meters above normal levels, sending water spilling over low-level quaysides and blocking pedestrian and bicycle traffic on the car-free recreation areas.

Bateaux Mouches, the biggest of several Seine cruise operators, said its boats had been halted since Sunday and would remain out of action on Monday and Tuesday as the flooded quayside at the Pont de l’Alma bridge made its boats inaccessible to tourists, a company official said.

The Zouave soldier on one of the piers of the Alma bridge - a statue that is Parisians’ best-known measure for the height of the Seine - saw the water reaching to his calves, just below the 4.30 meter mark that makes the river unnavigable.

During the January 2018 floods, the Seine rose as high as 5.84 meters - about to the Zouave statue’s belt - causing major traffic chaos as the river flooded the train line that connects the city to its western and southern suburbs.

An official for metro and train operator RATP said the network was operating as normal on Monday.

In June 2016, with the Seine rising to 6.1 meters, the Louvre museum had to evacuate some of its artefacts from its cellars as a precaution in case they were flooded, and thousands of homes upstream and downstream of the city, on the Seine and its main tributary the Marne, were flooded.

City authorities have repeatedly warned that the city could suffer a repeat of the catastrophic floods in January 1910, when the Seine’s waters rose as high as 8.62 meter and large parts of central Paris were flooded.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq