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Priceless art at risk as extreme flooding forces Louvre to shut

Paris' iconic Louvre museum halted entries on Thursday and will be closed to the public on Friday to allow priceless artworks to be removed if the swollen River Seine keeps rising higher, an internal email to staff showed.

Central Paris on orange alert after the Seine's water level rises to over 5 metres

Seine River still rising after days of torrential rains 0:56

The Louvre museum in Paris says it will be closed Friday to remove artworks from rooms threatened by rising water from the Seine River.

The museum says Thursday the art will be preventively moved upstairs.

Its most famous painting, Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, is staying put on an upper floor.

Paris police, meanwhile, say their flood warning has been upgraded to "orange" level for areas in Paris near the Seine, which has overflowed its banks in many places.

The warning is the second-highest level and means floods might have "a significant impact" on buildings and people.

Louvre museum chief Jean-Luc Martinez told employees in an internal email seen by Reuters that the museum would have to shut and would then seek help from volunteers.

"The museum will remain closed to the public tomorrow out of precaution: there is no danger to the public or our staff but will allow us to calmly remove certain art collections should it be necessary," stated the email, sent earlier Thursday.

Residents who refused to be evacuated sit on makeshift boats during evacuation operations of the Villeneuve-Trillage flooded suburb in Villeneuve Saint-Georges, outside Paris, France, June 3, 2016. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

Torrential rains hit Europe

Torrential rains across France forced thousands of people from their homes and saw stranded motorists rescued by soldiers as flood waters rose.

In the French capital, the flooding of the Seine also forced the SNCF rail operator to close an underground commuter line that runs along the river and is used by tourists to reach the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame Cathedral.

A direct train line to Versailles has also been shut down due to the bad weather but travellers can still access Versailles castle through other train connecting lines.

In the Loire valley, the Chambord castle, a Unesco heritage site, found itself surrounded by water.

French President Francois Hollande says a "natural disaster" will be formally declared next week in a Cabinet meeting for areas most affected by the flooding that has hit Paris and France's central regions.

The Seine could peak at 5.5 metres overnight or on Friday night, the environment ministry said in a statement.

The river reached a record high of 8.60 metres in 1910.

Floods have inundated parts of France, Germany and Belgium this week, killing six people and trapping thousands in homes or cars as rivers burst their banks from Paris to Germany's southern state of Bavaria.​

With files from the Associated Press