Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910

Jeremy Harding writes:

On 21 January 1910 in the coal-mining community of Lorroy, 80 km south-east of Paris, there was a landslide. Weeks of heavy rain had soaked the hillside above the little town and as the miners made their way to their homes for lunch, a mass of mud and rock was dislodged. Lorroy, which was linked by a canal to the River Loing, a tributary of the Seine, suffered ‘total annihilation’ – or that was how the weekly L’Illustration captioned its photos of the scene. Seven people were killed and there were many more injuries. Then, during the night, the inhabitants of Troyes, on the Seine, heard water rushing through the streets. By first light the town was unrecognisable; many buildings were little more than relics vouching for the force of the flood. Troyes is further than Lorroy from Paris, about 150 km upstream, and the river had been swollen for a while. People in Paris may have been nervous, but by and large they put their trust in news from the national Hydrometric Service.

(LRB 28 January 2010)