Neighborhood Bomb Site

photo: bistro le lutece, st michel

A Roman name-for-Paris bistro in the Latin Quarter.

Water, Water, Everywhere

Paris:- Monday, 16. April 2001:- Late last week, 12,500 residents of Vimy and neighboring small towns around it in the Pas-de-Calais region were asked to leave their houses urgently for an undetermined length of time - possibly ten days - time enough for army bomb experts to eliminate the risk of a WWI and WWII neighborhood bomb dump from exploding.

One of 13 such dumps located around France, the one near Vimy alarmed authorities who feared that the recent heavy rains had made some of the old bombs unstable. Especially worrying were the 98 tons of chemical bombs, some of which contained mustard gas, used in WWI.

The existence of the site was only revealed first in 1997, with nearly 500 tons of wartime explosives stored nearly under open skies. At the time the government said it would 'fix' it, so residents were somewhat annoyed to be forced to leave their homes during the Easter weekend - and some refused to do so.

The site has been inspected regularly, and itphoto: book stalls, quai du louvre was the most recent inspection that forced the authorities to act. The site contains so many old bombs because unexploded ones are still found frequently, in an area long fought over during WWI.

The sun has been appearing for brief periods on most days.

Late Sunday, and continuing until early Monday, the most dangerous mustard gas bombs are being transferred by road to another, safer depot, located on military property at Suippes, near Chalons-en-Champagne.

This caused the deployment of a huge force and the closing of several roads for the duration of the operation, which has been effected without incident. This leaves only another 120 tons of high explosives at Vimy to get rid of.

Floods On the Somme

Not far away from Vimy, the Somme river is in flood in the area of Arras on account of the nearly non-stop rains. Météo France experts are saying they haven't seen anything like it in their 200 years of records.

Actually, extra heavy rains have been causing havoc all over France since November 1999, when southern areas were severely hit. Then it was Normandy's turn last May and a month later along the Garonne. In January Brittany was the victim of flooding.

In the last six months, three-quarters of France has received double its normal rainfall and some regions have had triple or more.

In Amiens and Abbeville, there has been a rumor that high Seine waters have been diverted to the Somme - 'to spare Parisians some inconveniences.' The two rivers are in fact joined by the Canal du Nord, but this carries too little water to make this a feasible plan.

For Paris, the Seine actually has four 'overflow' lakes at its disposition. During floods these can be filled up, and the water saved for dry periods. These lakes are nowhere near the course of the Somme.

The Seine itself is in flood, with its riverside motorways again closed after being temporarily opened - by chance, for the marathon a week ago. Downstream, in the Yvelines department, riverfront houses are underwater and are rocked by waves from passing barges.

In Abbeville, the Easter service at the Rouvroy church was canceled on Sunday and held in the town's centre. Over 2400 homes have been evacuated, and with the weekend rains the Somme is still rising.

Snow At Easter

Rain for some people was snow for others in the Alps over the Easter holidays. This pleased some ski operators who had closed down for the season after warm weather a few weeks ago. Nowphoto: rue galande, latin quarter they are thinking they can keep the ski slopes open until the end of the month.

While Le Parisien says that there is a 'reverse side of the coin' for this in the form of the snow being unstable, the other reverse of it is, it is going to melt - and prolong the season of winter floods.

The Latin Quarter's Rue Galande.

Meanwhile, in the Paris area, drivers returning from their week or two weeks of Easter holidays, caused the usual orange and red traffic alerts.

Easter is a welcome and perhaps most favorable holiday time in France, because the stress of buying Christmas gifts for one and all is absent.

Strike(s) of the Week

On strike off-and-on since 23. March for the Louvre and since 5. April for the Musée d'Orsay, talks failed to move anyody anywhere at the end of last week. The Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysées is also affected. The situation changes from open to closed on a day-to-day basis.

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