Destinations

Venice “on its knees” after being hit by worst flood in 50 years

Two people have died in the second-worst flood to hit the Italian city of Venice.

More than 85 per cent of Venice was inundated by an extreme Acqua Alta tide peak on Tuesday according to officials.

Hundreds of millions of euros of possibly irreparable damage have been caused to the city, with many of Venice’s well-known sites submerged in the flood.

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said “Venice is on its knees” after the city sustained water levels of up to 187 centimetres on Tuesday, shortly before another wave of exceptionally high water followed Wednesday.

Brugnaro has blamed climate change for the severe flooding, and asked for help from the government, as the city begins its recovery.

“A tide at 187 cm is a wound that leaves indelible marks,” the Mayor tweeted. “Now the government must listen.”

A man in his 70s died during the floods on the barrier island of Pellestrina, after being struck by lightning while using an electric water pump, Venetian official Danny Carrella told the Associated Press.

Carrella added that the situation remained dramatic, with a metre of water still present due to broken pumps, ABC News reported.

Details of the second deceased have not emerged.

In Venice, the crypt beneath St. Mark’s Basilica was inundated for only the second time in its history, with water entering through the windows and bypassing all defences.

Brugnaro said that like the entire city and its islands, St. Mark’s Basilica has “sustained serious damage”.

“I have often seen St. Mark’s Square covered with water,’’ Venice’s patriarch, Monsignor Francesco Moraglia, told reporters. “Yesterday there were waves that seemed to be the seashore.”

Damage was also reported at the Ca’ Pesaro modern art gallery, where a short circuit set off a fire, and at La Fenice theatre, where authorities turned off electricity as a precaution after the control room was flooded, the Associated Press reported.

At least 60 boats were damaged in the floods, according to civil protection authorities, including some pedestrian ferry boats. The national firefighter’s corporation, Vigil del Fuoco, tweeted that boats had broken their moorings in the flooding.

The head of the Venice hotel association told Italian news organisation ANSA the damage was enormous, with many hotels losing electricity and lacking pumps to remove water.

Tourists with ground floor rooms had to be moved to higher floors as the waters rose on Tuesday night (local time), the association director Claudio Scarpa said.

Brugnaro has blamed climate change for the “dramatic situation”, with five of Venice’s 10 highest tides having occurred in the last 20 years, and the most recent occurring last year, BBC News reported.

“Even today, facing tides that mark negative records,” he said in a tweet on Tuesday night (local time). “Tomorrow we will declare a state of calamity. We ask the #Governo to help us, the costs will be high. These are the effects of climate change. The Mose must be finished soon. Tomorrow schools closed in Venice and islands.”

Brugnaro has also called for the rapid completion of a long-delayed project to construct offshore barriers.

The project, known as ‘Mose’, consists of moveable undersea barriers that are meant to limit the flooding of the city, which is caused by southerly winds that push the tide into Venice.

Last week, Italy’s Minister of Education, Lorenzo Fioramonti, revealed that from next year Italian school students in every grade will be required to study climate change and sustainability, to position the country as a world leader in environmental education.

Featured image: “Venice’s Mayor Luigi Brugnaro speaking to Venice’s patriarch, Monsignor Francesco Moraglia” posted by Luigi Brugnaro/Twitter

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