France floods and strikes cast pall over Euro 2016
June 06 2016 01:10 AM
A man fishes in a flooded street in Saint-Aubin-lès-Elbeuf, western France.


Flood damage, strikes and terror fears are the ingredients of a malaise gripping France five days before the Euro football tournament.
Thick grey clouds hung over Paris as the muddy Seine slowly receded yesterday from a three-decade high that saw it burst its banks in places and forced the Louvre and Orsay museums to close to move works out of basement stores.
But while crowds thronged to photograph the river - Paris’s star attraction this weekend - residents in nearby towns picked through devastated homes, with insurers estimating damages of between 600mn euros ($681mn) and 2bn euros.
Several towns remained on alert after the floods left four people dead in the Paris region this week, and over 11,000 homes were without electricity.
In Paris several metro stations remained shut as a precaution.
France has been ground down by a series of attacks in January and November last year, months of often violent anti-government protests and transport chaos due to strikes.
“It is really bad, we don’t need this now,” bank employee Pascal Derby, 62, told AFP.
“All the authorities are stretched - the police, firemen.
It is a nightmare,” he told AFP, gloomily watching the swirling waters of the Seine.
France’s litany of woes has coincided with what is supposed to be Europe’s biggest football celebration - with 1.5mn visitors expected for the one month championship which starts on June 10. “A party despite everything...” headlined the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.
France is rolling out unprecedented security for the event, seven months after 130 people were killed in a series of terror attacks in Paris - which included three suicide bombings at the national football stadium.
With the country still under a state of emergency and considered a prime target for the Islamic State group, security forces numbering 90,000 will protect stadiums and fan zones during the tournament.
However Paris police chief Michel Cadot has asked government to shut one big fan zone when matches are played in the city, citing the “exhaustion” of officers and the threat of terrorism.
Meanwhile there was no end in sight to five days of train strikes that created headaches for travellers in the wake of a week of industrial action that left the French queueing for petrol.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Saturday urged train operator SNCF to call off the strike in solidarity with the French during the floods.
“This strike is already incomprehensible, but in the regions affected (by floods), it is completely incomprehensible,” he said on a visit to the flooded central town of Crosne.
Household rubbish risked building up in the Paris region and elsewhere in the country as refuse centres downed tools against the government’s labour reforms, which are at the heart of the wave of industrial unrest.
And Air France pilots are threatening to start a four day strike on June 11, when the Euro tournament is in full swing, and a major protest is planned in Paris on the 14th.
Although each of the strikes has its own motivations, the unions are united in opposition to the labour reforms.
Government says the reforms will reduce unemployment by making it easier to hire and fire employees.
However unions say the law favours bosses by letting them set their own working conditions for new employees, rather than being bound to industry-wide agreements, allowing companies to cut jobs during hard times and go beyond the 35-hour work week.
President Francois Hollande is refusing to scrap the legislation in the power struggle which comes less than a year ahead of a presidential election.
New polls this week showed Hollande only had a 14% approval rating, while the government as a whole mustered a lowly 10%.

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