La crue de la Seine
P: Eclipse. Fr 1910
“In late January 1910, following months of high rainfall, the Seine River flooded Paris when water pushed upwards from overflowing sewers and subway tunnels, and seeped into basements through fully saturated soil. The waters did not overflow the river’s banks within the city, but flooded Paris through tunnels, sewers, and drains. In neighbouring towns both east and west of the capital, the river rose above its banks and flooded the surrounding terrain directly.
Winter floods were a normal occurrence in Paris but, on 21 January, the river began to rise more rapidly than normal. Over the course of the following week, thousands of Parisians evacuated their homes as water infiltrated buildings and streets throughout the city shutting down much of Paris’ basic infrastructure. Police, fire-fighters, and soldiers moved through waterlogged streets in boats to rescue stranded residents from second-story windows and to distribute aid. Refugees gathered in makeshift shelters in churches, schools, and government buildings. Although the water threatened to overflow the tops of the quay walls that line the river, workmen were able to keep the Seine back with hastily built levees.”
“At ten minutes to eleven on the morning of Friday, January 21, 1910, almost the very hour at which on another January 21 Louis XVI. mounted the scaffold, the power station from which all the public clocks of Paris are worked by compressed air was flooded by the Seine; all the clocks stopped simultaneously with military exactitude, and with a start of surprise Parisians began to realize that the Seine in flood was not a harmless spectacle that could be watched with the cheerful calm of philosophic detachment, and that the river in revolt was an enemy to be feared even by the most civilized city in Europe. Crowds, it is true, had gathered on the embankments, admiring the headlong rush of the silent yellow river that carried with it logs and barrels, broken furniture, the carcasses of animals, and perhaps sometimes a corpse, all racing madly to the sea; they had watched cranes, great piles of stones, and the roofs of sheds emerge for a time from the flooded wharves and then vanish in the swirl of the rising water, while barges and pontoons, generally hidden from sight far below, rose gradually above the level of the streets, notably one great two-storied bathing barge, a vision of unsuspected hideousness, that threatened at any moment, triply moored as it was, to crash into the parapet.”