Venice second worst flood ever

MILAN (AP) — The worst flooding in Venice in more than 50
years prompted calls Wednesday to better protect the historic city from rising
sea levels as officials calculated hundreds of millions of euros in damages.

Water levels reached 74 inches on Tuesday, the
second-highest level ever recorded in the city and 2.5 inches less than the
historic 1966 flood. Another wave of exceptionally high water followed

What Venice looks like under ‘exceptional’ high tide, with full moon, big rain and wind surge. Out to dinner at 9pm, streets totally dry. In the restaurant, looked out the courner of my eye and see shimmering water in the corner. Walked outside and 18 inches of water. However pizza joint and retail still open…just a little water …… #venicefloods #water #hightide #italy #tyefarrow #farrowpartners

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“Venice is on its knees,” Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said on
Twitter. “St. Mark’s Basilica has sustained serious damage, like the entire
city and its islands.”

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.

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

Tourists floated suitcases through St. Mark’s Square, where
officials removed walkways to prevent them from floating away. The water was so
high that nothing less than thigh-high boots afforded protection. Water poured
through wooden boards that shop and hotel owners have previously placed in
front of doors to hold back water during flooding. Tourists staying on the
ground floor of hotels were forced to move to upper floors overnight.

“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.”

Brugnaro said damage would reach hundreds of millions of
euros, and he called on Rome to declare a state of emergency. Premier Giuseppe
Conte was due to visit the city later Wednesday.

“We are not just talking about calculating the damages, but
of the very future of the city,” Brugnaro told reporters. “Because the
population drain also is a result of this.”

The flooding was caused by heavy rains coinciding a full
moon that brought high tides that were pushed into Venice by southerly winds.
At the same time, rising sea levels due to climate change make the city built
amid a system of canals even more vulnerable.

Damage included five ferries that serve as water buses, a
critical means of transportation.

Photos on social media showed a city ferry, taxi boats and
gondolas grounded on walkways flanking canals. At least 60 boats were damaged,
according to civil protection authorities.

Pellestrina was one of the worst hit areas. Facing the sea,
water came over the banks of the canal and filled the island like a basin. Carrella
said more than 3 feet of water remained Wednesday due to broken pumps.

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Brugnaro blamed climate change for the “dramatic situation”
and called for a speedy completion of a long-delayed project to construct
offshore barriers.

Called “Moses,” the moveable undersea barriers are meant to
limit flooding. But the project, which was opposed by environmentalists
concerned about damaging the delicate lagoon eco-system, has been delayed by
cost overruns and corruption scandals, with no launch date in site.

Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, told SkyTG24 that
the barriers were almost complete, but it wasn’t clear if they would work
against such flooding.

“Despite 5 billion euros under water, St. Mark’s Square
certainly wouldn’t be secure,” Zaia said, referring to one of Venice’s lowest
points, which floods when there is an inundation of 31.5 inches.

Zaia also expressed concern for snowfalls in the mountains
above Venice, where up to 47 inches was expected.

Across the Adriatic Sea, heavy storm and sweeping winds also
caused floods in towns in Croatia and Slovenia.

In the Croatian town of Split, authorities on Wednesday said
that the flooding submerged the basement area of the Roman-era Diocletian’s
Palace where emergency crews battled to pump out the water.

Slovenia’s coastal towns of Piran, Izola and Koper reported
that sea levels reached the second highest point in the last 50 years.

Jovana Gec in Belgrade contributed to this report.

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