Venice waters stymie marathon runners as flood barriers breached again

Venice was inundated by an exceptional high tide this weekend, putting three-quarters of the famed Italian lagoon city under water as large swathes of the rest of Italy experienced flooding and heavy winds that toppled trees, killing four people.

On Sunday, as floodwaters rose, the Venice Marathon was taking place.

Pictures of committed runners wading through the flooded town have surfaced on social media as onlookers watched the race turn into a swimming event.

“Should have hired a gondola,” quipped one exhausted runner.

Nothing but respect to all the runners of the #Venice #marathon today. This is insane.

Battling against adverse conditions and currents Ethiopia’s Mekuant Ayenew Gebre claimed victory with a time of 2.13.22 and Angela Jemesunde Tanui of Kenya came home first for the womens’ race at 2:31:30.

By the end of Sunday’s race the city’s officials said 70 per cent of the city was flooded, with a 147 centimetre rise in sea level.

Yet this was not the ‘high water mark’ of the city’s current flooding crisis.

By Monday tourists and residents alike donned high boots to navigate the streets of Venice after strong winds raised the water level 156 centimetres before receding. The water exceeded the raised walkways normally put out in flooded areas in Venice, forcing their removal. Transport officials closed the water bus system except to outlying islands due to the emergency.

Venice frequently floods when high winds push in water from the lagoon, but Monday’s levels were exceptional. The peak level was the highest reached since December 2008, according to Venice statistics.

Residents and businesses typically reinforce their doors with metal or wooden panels to prevent water from entering the bottom floors, but photos on social media showed shop owners using water pumps this time to try to protect their wares.

Much of Italy is under alert for flooding from heavy rains, a problem exacerbated by a lack of maintenance of the country’s many river beds. High winds toppled trees that killed passers-by in three accidents in Naples and Lazio.

Officials closed major tourist attractions in Rome, including the Colosseum and Roman Forum, early due to heavy rains.

Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia says flooding this week could reach the levels of the 1966 flood that struck both Venice and Florence. In a message on Instagram, he closed schools in the region for a second day on Tuesday.

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