Simbach am Inn (Germany) (AFP) – At least nine people have been killed in floods that have wreaked havoc in Germany and France, trapping people in their homes and forcing rescuers to row lifeboats down streets turned into muddy rivers.
In Paris, officials were putting up emergency flood barriers on Thursday along the swollen river Seine after days of torrential rain — including near the Louvre, home to priceless works of art.
The force of the water swept away the entire stock of a sawmill in the German town of Simbach am Inn, leaving huge stacks of splintered wood blocking the streets of the devastated town.
On one street, passers-by were greeted by the surreal sight of a car parked vertically against the wall of a house, pushed there by the floodwaters. Many other vehicles lay flipped over in roads blanketed by mud.
The dead in Simbach include three women from the same family — a mother, grandmother and daughter — who had been trapped in their house.
“The water was so quick that practically no residents had the time to run away,” police spokesman Armin Angloher said.
Police said a man’s body had also been found in a house in Simbach, while an 80-year-old woman was found dead in Julbach a few kilometres away. Her house had collapsed under the weight of the floodwaters.
The deaths bring the toll from the floods to nine, including four others were killed earlier this week in the southern German region of Baden-Wuerttemberg region.
Four others are missing, a police spokesman in Bavaria state told AFP.
“We fear the worst,” he said, adding that divers have been sent to search for the victims.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a press conference: “I am crying for the people who have lost their lives in these floods. I am by the side of families who have been plunged into this devastation.”
– Worst floods in a century –
Some towns in central France are suffering their worst floods in more than a century, with more than 5,000 people evacuated since the weekend.
Forecaster Meteo France described the situation as “exceptional, worse than the floods of 1910”, when even central Paris was flooded.
Some 24,400 homes were without power in the Paris region and the Loiret, provider Enedis said, while the floods forced the shutdown of one of the capital’s main commuter train lines.
The torrential rains have also hit the French Open tennis tournament, washing out play earlier in the week, leaving players hoping to reach the finals facing a heavy schedule of matches.
In central Paris, riverside tourist paths were flooded, and the water was washing around a replica of the Statue of Liberty.
Rescuers in the Paris suburb of Longjumeau were paddling up streets in lifeboats, while in the town of Montargis, only the tops of cars could be seen peaking above the surface.
About 200 people had to spend the night in a gymnasium in Nemours south of Paris and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, visiting the flooded town’s a crisis control centre, said at least 2,000 more people needed to be evacuated.
“The situation remains tense and difficult in several areas. We still have many concerns.”
Sylvette Gounaud, a local shopworker, said she had seen nothing like this in 70 years living in the town.
“The centre of town is totally under water, all the shops are destroyed,” she said.
An 86-year-old French woman was reported killed in the floods after her body was found in her inundated home south of Paris, but it now appears that she died several days ago, police said.
In the Loire Valley, floodwaters were lapping at the Chateau of Chambord, causing a watery reflection of the much-visited 16th century castle.
Schools and roads have also been flooded in Austria in recent days, though the waters have now receded.
– More rains forecast –
But forecasters in both Germany and France were warning of more torrential downpours in the next 24 hours.
The severe weather began at the weekend with lightning strikes which left several children in Paris and western Germany fighting for their lives.
In Simbach, the waters had subsided largely subsided by noon on Thursday, leaving only the town’s main artery still flooded.
Grim-faced residents were examining the damage, trying to shovel mud out of their ruined homes.
Many local businesses have been ravaged by the floodwaters and by the trunks of wood that rushed down from the saw-mill, smashing into their store-fronts.