Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

Venice hit by fresh wave of floods as 70% of historic centre under water

High tides will cause millions of euros worth of damage

Exceptionally high tides flooded Venice again on Friday, peaking at 1.54 metres, submerging around 70 per cent of the city centre under water.

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro officially closed the city’s iconic St Mark’s Square on Friday morning, after it was covered knee high water. Surrounding shops and hotels were also closed.

The floods, called Aqua Alta, are at the highest level in more than 50 years, causing the lagoon city to call a state of emergency earlier this week. Venice saw its second-worst flooding on record on Tuesday when the water level reached 1.87 metres above sea level.

Photos emerged online this week of people going out to eat and drink at the city’s restaurants, despite their legs being covered in water.

Mr Brugnaro has blamed climate change for the severe flooding, which has swamped the city’s historic basilica, squares and centuries-old buildings, and said the damage is estimated to be hundreds of millions of euros.

The Italian government has so far allocated €20 million (Dh81m) to repair some of the city’s historic treasures, as well as residential areas and businesses that have been worst affected by the floods.

Water levels are due to ease to 1.1 to 1.2 metres over the weekend, according to tide forecast centre CPSM Venezia.

Venice began building a sea defence system, dubbed “Moses”, in 2003, but after several delays, it isn’t expected to begin operating until the end of 2021.

The leader of the right-wing opposition League party, Matteo Salvini, visited the city on Friday morning and urged officials concentrate their efforts in completing the Moses project.

“We can’t waste time, this city is crying for help,” Mr Salvini said, adding that similar incidents must be avoided.

Nava Naccara, a local resident, told Reuters: "I am not afraid because I am Venetian and used to it. But it hasn't ever been like this with all these consecutive days, usually it is just once and then you have a break. Now we've been in an emergency situation for days and we just can't put up with any more."

Another resident, Roberto Fabris di Chioggia, accused officials in a Linkedin post of letting “behemoth” holiday cruise boats to cross through the city, worsening the condition of the palazzi.

“And what became [of the] the trillions of dollars poured in for decades [to city coffers] meant to find, to design and finally to build real solutions against the natural phenomenon of decline of the millenarian city of Doge due to time, to salted sea and high waters and man-made silly industrial facilities down in the laguna or other types of modern destroying pollution?,” he added.

Meanwhile, a bookstore that its owners call ‘waterproof’, named Libreria Acqua Alta (High Water Bookshop) after the city’s high tides, has been fighting to preserve its books from the floods. It has been sinking slowly since it was built, but down the years, it has managed to mainly preserve its books from the deluge by keeping them in bathtubs, water proof bins and even a full-sized a gondola.

But Tuesday’s floods destroyed hundreds of its books, the shop’s owners told Italian literary blog Libreriamo on Wednesday.

Updated: November 17, 2019 10:52 AM

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