“It will happen”: Paris is preparing to be drowned by a once-in-a-lifetime flood

The city of dirty water.
The city of dirty water.
Image: Reuters/Charles Platiau
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Paris wants to be ready for the worst-case scenario: a catastrophic flood that could reach the scale of the “Great Flood of Paris.”

In 1910, the Seine rose eight meters (26 feet) above its usual level as a result of unusually high levels of rainfall. The river flooded Paris for over a week; inhabitants were forced to evacuate their homes and travelled around the city with makeshift footbridges.

Now, officials are undergoing a two-week exercise to prepare for a similar devastating flood. “This is the first time an exercise of this scale has been carried out over a region the size of Ile-de-France,” Jean-Paul Kihl, secretary-general of the Paris security and defense zone, told The Local.

Kihl insists that this isn’t a waste of time; a major flood will definitely happen. “It might be in five, 10, or even 20 years time, but it will happen,” he said.

The exercise—called Sequena 2016—suggests there’s a one-in-hundred chance that Paris could be struck with another disastrous flood in any given year. The flood could surround Paris’ famous landmarks, such as The Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, in water and cause €30 billion ($33 billion) in material damages (link in French). The Urban Planning Institute (IAU) released a series of videos to show what a devastating flight would look like.

The exercise will replicate the conditions of a real flood, where the river levels would rise gradually every day until it reaches eight meters—the same level as the 1910 flood. Metro stations will be walled up, radio stations will sound the alarm, and important artwork will be moved to a safe place as part of the simulation. Eight-seven public and private institutions will take part in the exercise, which includes police officers, ambulance workers, and firemen.

A flood of that scale would affect around 830,000 people and 100,000 businesses, representing 750,000 jobs. The IAU has even released an interactive map of the city to highlight the areas most in danger of flooding.