Paris shuts the Louvre in race to protect priceless artwork

Curators at the Louvre scramble to evacuate valuable artworks and ancient artifacts amid the threat of rising flood levels.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

A traffic sign stands in a flooded road in Paris, in front of the Conciergerie building, a former prison, now used partly for law courts, Friday June 3, 2016.

Amidst the threat of rising flood waters, the world famous Louvre museum has closed its doors in order to evacuate priceless artworks and artifacts.

On Thursday night, curators and dozens of volunteers at the Louvre, the world’s largest art museum, began scrambling to relocate 150,000 pieces of art, predominantly Islamic, Italian and Greek artifacts from its underground storerooms.

The Mona Lisa, the iconic masterpiece of the museum's collection is housed in the upper floor and is not under threat.

Crates with pieces of artworks from the collections of the Louvre are seen near statues

French President Francoise Hollande made a late night visit to the museum while the emergency rescue operation was underway.

“For the museums, even if fortunately there isn’t any flooding of storerooms as of today, there is an automatic process above 5.50 metres to move works in the deepest storerooms higher,” Bruno Julliard, Paris’ deputy mayor told France Inter radio.

The museum made an announcement on its website “Due to the level of the river Seine, the Musée du Louvre will be exceptionally closed to the public on June 3, 2016 to ensure the protection of the works located in flood zones. We apologize for any inconvenience caused."

Aside from museum renovations, the last time there was an emergency evacuation response at this level was during the years leading up to the 1940 Nazi invasion of France, when museum curators responded to the threat by sending masterpieces to several locations across France.

By Friday, the river Seine is expected to peak at 21 feet. These are the worst floods the nation has experienced in decades. Officials expect the water levels to gradually recede next week.


TRTWorld and agencies