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Wednesday, June 8, 2016


"..mon coeur deborde d'amour." 
Pierre Terdjman, New York Times
For a photo gallery by Reuters news agency of the 2016 Seine flooding click the following link

The French, who have an remarkable affinity to romanticize even the most difficult situations, turn to a 160 year-old-statue to mark the rise of the Seine River during periods of great flooding.

The Zouave statue that sits upon one of the four piers of the Pont de l’Alma, a bridge in metropolitan Paris, serves as a trusty measuring instrument for water levels.

Charles Platiam, Reuters
Local weather monitors become nervous when the Seine's level reaches the feet of the Zouave; when the water hits his thighs, the river is unnavigable. During the great flood of the Seine in 1910, the level reached his shoulders.

Late last week heavy rains in much of Europe had caused serious flooding and the Zouave began to disappear under the swollen current.

In Paris on the first day of June, the Seine rose 16 feet above its normal level, which flooded lower embankments and shutting down adjacent roads.  Damage at that level remained light.

Despite the high water, the flood record remains at 26 feet above normal level, which occurred in the famous flood of 1910.

French zouaves during the 
Crimean war; painting by 
Aleksander Raczyński (1858).
Who is this Parisian flood monitor?  The famed Zouvre statue honors an elite corps of mercenary soldiers first recruited in the 1830s by the French military from colonies in North Africa.  Their colorful uniforms and reputation as fierce fighters have endeared the hard fighting regiments to the French.  The Zouaves were noted participants in one of the major Battles of the Crimea. The Pont de l’Alma was built to commemorate the Anglo/French victory over the Russians at Alma in 1854.

Construction took place between 1854 and its grand opening April 2, 1856.  Napoleon III cut the ribbon. Originally, the Pont de l'Alma had a length of 153 meters (502 ft) and a width of 42 meters (138 ft).  It was designed by Paul-Martin Gallocher de Lagalisserie. Each of the bridge’s four piers was decorated with a statue of military nature: a Zouave and a grenadier by Georges Diébolt, and a skirmisher and an artilleryman by Arnaud.

The bridge underwent complete reconstruction between 1970 and 1974, as it had been too narrow to accommodate the increasing traffic both on and below it; moreover, the structure had subsided some 80 centimeters. Only the statue of the Zouave was retained: the Skirmisher was relocated to the Gravelle Stronghold in Vincennes, the Grenadier to Dijon, and the Artilleryman to La Fère.

So far, the Floodman points out 2016 levels as of last week
reached that of 1955 and that's well above
the level that closes navigation on the Seine River.

Paris: 1910 Flood
Location of the Zoarve Statue along the Seine
Baguettes por mama dans Chalette-sur-Loing Montargis, Orleans
Christian Hartman, Reuters
Z-man in drier times (above)
2016 flood of the Seine (below)

Sad Note. The bridge is close to the Pont de l'Alma tunnel where Diana, Princess of Wales was involved in a fatal car crash on August 31, 1997. The Flame of Liberty at the bridge's north end has become an unofficial memorial to Diana.

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