Rock am Ring festival in Germany shuts as France braces for new storms

With Hollande poised to declare ‘natural catastrope’, Paris floodwaters recede but Louvre and train stations stay closed

Rock am Ring festival in Germany shuts as France braces for new storms
Visitors wade through mud at the Rock am Ring festival. Photograph: Thomas Frey/EPA

Authorities in western Germany have pulled the plug on one of the country’s most popular open-air rock festivals because of a storm warning.

Organisers of Rock am Ring said on Sunday they accepted the decision “out of responsibility for the welfare” of the roughly 90,000 attendants.

Scores of people were injured at the site near Mendig, 62 miles west of Frankfurt, when lightning and heavy rain struck the festival late on Friday. The German Red Cross said 72 people were treated in hospital. The festival was suspended after the incident but briefly reopened Saturday night, before the final decision to close it Sunday.

During a week of exceptionally heavy rain around Europe, at least 18 people were killed in flooding in Germany, France, Romania and Belgium. New thunderstorms are forecast for eastern France on Sunday and more rain elsewhere. More than 11,000 French homes are still without electricity.

The French president, François Hollande, told Europe 1 radio that the cabinet would formally declare a “natural catastrophe” on Wednesday to facilitate payout by the insurance industry. The downpours have added to the gloom caused by months of protests and strikes over a labour reform bill that have continued in the run-up to the 10 June kick-off of the Euro 2016 football championships.

In Paris, the riverside Grand Palais exhibition hall reopened on Sunday as floodwaters slowly receded but the Louvre museum, several train stations in city and roads remained closed after the worst floods in three decades.

Emergency crews were pumping water out of a key motorway interchange and evacuating cars trapped for days south of the capital.

Levels in the river Seine peaked on Saturday in Paris, and the national flood service said it would remain about 4 metres above normal on Sunday. Authorities warned it would take up to 10 days for the river to return to normal.

The flood risks along the Seine are moving downstream after forcing thousands out of their homes and houseboats earlier this week. West of Paris, it overflowed around the medieval city of Rouen overnight, but the local administration said on Sunday the damage was “localised and limited” and severe flood warnings for the area were lifted.

Alerts have also been issued in 15 other regions, including Île-de-France, where Paris is located, Lorraine in the northeast as well as parts of the country’s central areas.

Although Paris authorities warned people not to venture near dangerous parts of the river, crowds gathered on bridges to snap pictures of the dramatic sight. “It’s mind-boggling,” said Bente Wegner, a 25-year-old German, speaking near Notre Dame cathedral. “I’ve never seen it this high.”

She added: “We had to scrap plans for a boat cruise but at least we have some super photos.”

Pieces of driftwood, plastic bags and other detritus swept past in the muddy waters, which engulfed the city’s riverside walkways, a popular haunt of strolling couples. “It is a reminder that nature is more powerful than man and we cannot do anything, only wait,” said Gabriel Riboulet, a 26-year-old businessman, as he took in the scene.

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