France is on high security alert after top tourist attractions in Paris were evacuated over the weekend due to fears of a possible attack.
On Saturday 14 October, visitors to the Louvre Museum and the Palace of Versailles – two of the world’s most visited tourist attractions – were evacuated for security reasons.
Alarms went off in the Louvre and its underground shopping centre around midday when the evacuation was announced. It was cordoned off by police on all sides and visitors were seen streaming out.
Officials said they had received a written message warning of a “risk to the museum and its visitors”, according to AFP. The museum decided to evacuate and close for the day to carry out ‘essential checks’.
The Louvre, which receives between 30,000 and 40,000 visitors a day, reopened on Sunday at its usual time after no threat was found.
Just hours after the Louvre closed, the Palace of Versailles was also evacuated after a bomb threat. A source close to the matter told AFP that the warning came via an anonymous online message.
Videos of crowds leaving the top tourist attraction on Saturday afternoon were shared on social media.
Why is France on high alert?
France went on high alert on Friday 13 October after a deadly stabbing at a school.
A teacher was killed and two others injured in a knife attack at a school in the north-eastern city of Arras by a former pupil with a history of Islamic radicalisation.
Amid additional concerns over the war between Israel and Hamas, the government raised the threat level and mobilised 7,000 troops to increase security across the country.
The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) warns travellers that the threat level is described as “maximum vigilance and protection in the event of an imminent threat of terrorist attack or in the immediate aftermath of an attack”.
Are Paris tourists changing their plans?
Despite the heightened state of alert, many visitors to the French capital remain undeterred.
“I’m not changing my plans. We’re going on as we are. We spent three days at Disneyland with the kids and now we’re here,” Spanish tourist Qing Qing Wang told AFP.
“Tomorrow we’ll spend the whole day in this area. At the moment I can see that everyone is calm. I don’t see anyone who is very worried”.
Others are changing their plans following the evacuation of the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles.
“I don’t feel afraid. I feel like I will change my itinerary a little bit,” Australian tourist Lee Carter told Agence France-Presse on Sunday.
“I’m not going to the museums on this trip. I’m just going to walk around the streets and pay attention”.