Paris could become another Venice with next flood

Wed Jan 20, 2010 10:18am EST
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By Sophie Taylor

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - One hundred years ago, the river Seine burst its banks and filled the elegant boulevards of Paris with torrents of muddy water, forcing thousands of inhabitants out of their homes and cutting off power for months.

The same could happen again. Only this time the consequences will be 10 times worse, experts say.

"The flood is unavoidable," said Louis Hubert, director for the Paris region at France's ministry of ecology and sustainable development.

"What we can simply say is that we are almost certain to see new considerable floods, but we don't know when."

Paris' centennial flood of 1910 -- a flood which has a 1 in 100 chance of occurring every year -- affected 200,000 people in 1910 and cost 1.5 billion euros ($2.15 billion) in today's money, said Hubert.

A similar flood these days would affect around a million inhabitants and cost 15 billion euros, he added. On top of this, another two to three million people are likely to see their electricity cut off for several days, he added.

"In both cases, there are 10 times more people concerned, and the direct cost is ten times more that of 1910. It could lead to disorganization of the Paris region and have an effect on the national economy," added Hubert.

To commemorate the 1910 flood, Paris' Galerie des Bibliotheques is exhibiting a collection of photos, postcards and witness accounts.   Continued...

<p>Snow covers gondolas in the canal city of Venice December 19, 2009. REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri</p>