There are lots of advantages for Paris on being strategically placed on what concerns with Seine River -- but this location also turns it vulnerable to the freaks of Nature and its river... Just like what happened on January 1910.
Seine River, apparently calm and controlled, is responsible for occasional floods at its sides, and turns Paris into a vulnerable point to the rising waters. It's no wonder why one of the mottos of the city is «Fluctuat nec Mergitur», which means «floating without sinking».
Anyway, on 1910 winter, Paris were partially submersed and the doubt about if the city would become drowned came up. The images of this event are present at the collective memory of the Parisian citizens.
In 1910, Paris was the capital of the cultural and the intelligent life. The «City of Lights» had electricity, telephone, new subways and sanitation, becoming the life of its inhabitants more suitable and comfortable. The high level of confidence on its statute of efficient and modern city made all the signs and advices that the Seine River water rising was eminent be ignored.
A harsh winter came after the fairly dry 1909 summer, and months of an endless torrential rainfall were characteristic. Between January 21th and 28th, those rainfalls culminated with a 7 meters Seine River rising waters -- a fact not registered in more than 250 years.
The waters of the river not only overflowed the margins -- they also percolated through tunnels, sewerages and drainages systems, submerging streets, square, inundating cellars and bursting forth the ground floor of the buildings.
The supply of electricity and gas was interrupted and the «City of Lights» was now in the dark. Paris was looking like Venice and its channels crossed by gondoliers, as people moving in little boat through the flooded city started to appear.
Hospitals were evacuated, and food was provided. The Louvre Museum master-pieces were protected, as much as the Jardin des Plantes animals were put in safe. The main consequences of this flood were the high number of displaced people, the violence at the streets and assaults that broke out, the high quantity of dead rats floating on the waters, increasing the risk of epidemics. People migrated from suburbs to downtown, where efforts were concentrated. When the Seine water started retrograding, the streets full of mud were cleaned and the cellars, disinfected.
Although all this tragedy, this unusual situation and the strangely beautiful landscape called the attention of photographers, poets and artist from all over the world, whose photographs, drawings and postcards survived until our days as testimonials of the indomitable strength and will of nature.
In 2010, many expositions alluding to this fact were organized, as much as the publishing of the book «Paris under water», by Jeffrey H. Jackson, history teacher in Memphis. In the book, the author also refers to the solidarity that can stand out and put together the survivors of a natural disaster.