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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 2 June, 2020
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'A dramatic situation': Venice flooded by highest tide in more than 50 years

The exceptionally intense high waters peaked at 1.87 metres.

italy-venice-high-tide A flooded St Mark's Square in Venice Source: Luca Bruno via PA Images

ITALY’S VENICE HAS been hit by the highest tide in more than 50 years.

The exceptionally intense high waters peaked at 1.87 metres as the flood alarm sounded across the Italian city of canals last night.

“We’re currently facing an exceptionally high tide. Everyone has been mobilised to cope with the emergency,” Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro tweeted.

In another tweet, Brugnaro called it a “dramatic situation”.

Only once since records began in 1923 has the water crept even higher, reaching 1.94 metres in 1966. 

As emergency services took to the canals to survey the damage, Italian media reported that a 78-year old local had been killed by electric shock as the waters poured into his home.

The coast guard laid on extra boats to serve as water ambulances.

Water taxis attempting to drop people off at the hotels along the Grand Canal discovered the gangways had been washed away, and had to help passengers clamber through windows.

italy-venice-high-tide People walk on catwalk set up on the occasion of a high tide, in a flooded Venice, Italy Source: Luca Bruno via PA Images

“It will be a long night,” Brugnaro tweeted, saying that as the water level began to drop again “the fears of a few hours ago are now being replaced by an assessment of the damage done”.

He said he would declare a state of disaster for the city.

The exceptional flood, which he blamed on climate change, was “a wound that will leave a permanent mark”.

Tweet by @Luigi Brugnaro Source: Luigi Brugnaro/Twitter

‘Swimming’

A couple of French tourists caught out said they had “effectively swum” after some of the wooden platforms placed around the city in areas prone to flooding overturned.

Since 2003, a massive infrastructure project has been underway to protect the city, but it has been plagued by cost overruns, scandals and delays.

The plan calls for the construction of 78 floating gates to protect Venice’s lagoon during high tides.

St Mark’s Square is particularly affected by the high tides, as it is located in one of the lowest parts of the city.

high-water-in-venice A man stands in a flooded cafe in Venice Source: Mirco Toniolo/Ropi via PA Images

The vestibule of the basilica was inundated with water, and authorities planned to watch the building overnight. 

One member of St Mark’s council said the scale of the flooding yesterday had only been seen five times in the long history of the basilica, where construction began in 828 and which was rebuilt after a fire in 1063.

Most worryingly, he said, three of those five episodes occurred in the last 20 years, most recently in 2018.

The cultural ministry said it would help fund improvements to the basilica’s flood defences.

Includes reporting by - © AFP 2019

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