Venice flooded by record-high tide

Cheryl Sanders
November 14, 2019

Tourists needed some pretty high boots on Tuesday in Venice as water levels rose flooding central St. Mark's Square, but locals say it's a headache above all else.

Venice's St. Mark's Square is under water as Italy's historic city deals with the second highest tide in history.

The exceptionally intense "acqua alta", or high waters, peaked at 1.87 metres (six feet).

Venice's mayor Luigi Brugnaro declared a state of national emergency across the region once described as Europe's living room.

People could be seen walking through knee-high water in St. Mark's Square, a popular tourist destination located in the lowest part of the city.

One death was blamed on the flooding, on the barrier island of Pellestrina. A man in his 70s was apparently electrocuted when he tried to start a pump in his dwelling, said Danny Carrella, an official on the island of 3,500 inhabitants.

Fire damage has also been reported at the Ca' Pesaro after an electrical short circuit triggered a blaze.

A tourist pushes her floating suitcase in a flooded St. Mark's Square, in Venice, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019.

Because of the high water and strong winds from a winter storm, the city has lost almost a third of the 1,100 raised walkways it relies on to help people navigate through high water, according to the city's public utility, Gruppo Veritas.

When the city floods, water invades homes, businesses, cafes and more. Travelers staying on the ground floor of hotels were forced to move to upper floors overnight. One man was filmed swimming bare-chested in St. Mark's Square at what appeared to be the height of the flood.

Venice Archbishop Francesco Moraglia said the city's historic Saint Mark's Basilica risked "irreparable" harm. "Yesterday there were waves that seemed to be the seashore".

"The situation is dramatic", Mr Brugnaro said on Twitter.

Venice's mayor told reporters it was not just about the financial damages, "but of the very future of the city". He called for quick completion of a long-delayed project called 'Moses.' This project involves building movable undersea barriers to limit flooding. In our changing climate, sea levels are rising and a city such as Venice, which is also sinking, is particularly susceptible to such changes.

The highest level ever recorded was 194 centimeters (76 inches) during the infamous flood of 1966.

Other images show water filling the streets, piazzas turned into lakes, and sunken vaporetti, or waterbuses that serve as Venice's public transportation system.

The city's water taxis had to help people climb through windows to reach their hotels, since the gangways along the Grand Canal had been washed away.

The Mayor also pledged that the long-delayed MOSE project, created to protect Venice and the Venetian Lagoon from tides of up to three meters, will be completed.

A flood barrier designed in 1984 to protect the city has always been delayed by various problems, including corruption and cost overruns, NBC News reported.

Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, told SkyTG24 that the barriers were nearly complete, but it wasn't clear if they would work against such flooding. The water level was expected to reach 55 inches.

"Customers already in Venice should be kept updated on advice issued by local authorities, and any that are due to travel should be contacted to discuss if any changes are necessary to their travel itineraries as a result of the flooding".

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