The river Seine, which cuts through the heart of Paris, has risen to six meters above normal level, the highest swell in 35 years.
There was already transport mayhem in the French capital due to striking rail workers, but flooded metro stations and roads is a new threat to commuters and tourists.
One of the city’s high speed RER lines has closed due to water on the lines, the rest are severely affected by the transport strikes.
Metro stations near to the river have closed and the roads that follow its banks are underwater causing traffic gridlock.
One bus driver said that he was having to control traffic himself, “it’s incredibly stressful”, he said.
An Italian tourist said he and his wife would have to walk across the city as the closest station to his destination is closed.
Disappointment for tourists
Paris’ landmark museums, the Louvre, the Orsay and the Grand Palais, have closed to protect their world famous works of art.
The Louvre – which is the most visited museum in the world, seeing 9.7 million tourists per year – closed its doors on Friday, citing the rising waters of the River Seine as a threat to its priceless collection. It will stay shut until Tuesday at the earliest.
It’s artworks have been boxed up in preparation for evacuation to safety in the museums basement where they will be kept dry.
Tourists who had planned to visit the attraction were left disappointed, with one man from Turkey saying: “Tomorrow we are going to leave so we cannot visit. We will save it for the next time, if we have the opportunity to come again.”
Another would-be visitor said that although it is a “shame” that the museum is closed, it is the “right” decision to move the art.
The Orsay Museum – home to Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ – announced on Friday that it would remain closed until Tuesday, although there is uncertainty as to when floodwaters will recede.
Paris’ river boat service, another popular tourist attraction was also not operating, due to exceptionally high waters impeding passage beneath the Seine’s numerous bridges.
The Zouave statue below the Pont de l’Alma is being used by Parisians to measure the rising of the river.
The Seine’s swollen waters are expected to peak on Friday evening following days of torrential rain that has so far claimed two lives in France and a further 13 across Europe.
In January 1910, the Seine rose by over 8.5 metres, and although there were no deaths, it lasted a week and caused an estimated 1.5 billion euros worth of damage.