Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte paid a visit to Venice on Wednesday evening to see for himself the devastation near-record flooding has caused to the historic city.
‘The situation is dramatic.. the people are suffering,’ said Mr Conte, who stood solemnly in front of the flooded Saint Mark’s Square, which saw nearly 6ft 2in on Tuesday, claiming the lives of two.
Officials blamed climate change while shopkeepers on the Grand Canal raged against those who have failed to protect the UNESCO city from the high tide.
They said corruption had repeatedly delayed a barrier protection system which could have prevented the disaster.
‘The city is on its knees,’ Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro said in an interview with national broadcaster RAI.
‘There’s widespread devastation,’ he said in the famed St Mark’s Square, which bore the brunt of the flooding. ‘In all likelihood the damage from last night runs into hundreds of millions of euros’.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte paid a visit to Venice on Wednesday evening to see for himself the devastation from near-record flooding that has inundated the city killing two. ‘The situation is dramatic.. the people are suffering,’ said Mr Conte, who stood solemnly in front of the flooded Saint Mark’s Square, where who came to see the problem for himself
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte receives information from authorities following bad weather caused floods in Venice, northern Italy on November 13, 2019. The high tide has already reached the level of 1,87 meter above sea level
Earlier in the day, the mayor of Venice said the city had suffered damage ‘in the hundreds of millions’ of pounds range after ‘apocalyptic’ floods which he blamed on
The city’s historic Saint Mark’s Basilica has ‘suffered irreparable damage, especially in the lower section of the mosaics and tiling,’ Venice Archbishop Francesco Moraglia told a news conference.
The church was flooded for just the sixth time in 1,200 years while the adjacent St Mark’s Square was submerged by more than three feet of water – so deep that one man even swam across it.
The floods have also brought misery to tourists and local residents – stranding boats, battering shops and hotels and and leaving many of the city’s squares and alleyways deep underwater.
Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said the floods were ‘the result of climate change’ and warned of severe damage after the tide peaked at nearly 6ft 2in last night, second only to the record 6ft 5in set in 1966.
There was also anger among Venetians today at the corruption which has caused delays to a long-planned flood protection barrier.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte inspects the area following bad weather caused floods in Venice, northern Italy on November 13, 2019. The high tide has already reached the level of 1,87 meter above sea level
People walk across the partially flooded St. Mark’s square in the lagoon city of Venice. The floods have also brought misery to tourists and local residents – stranding boats, battering shops and hotels and and leaving many of the city’s squares and alleyways deep underwater
Submerged: A woman crosses the flooded St Mark’s Square this morning where Venice’s 1,200-year-old basilica (pictured behind her) was flooded by the high tide
Wading in the water: The mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, walks in the submerged St Mark’s Square today as Venice responds to one of the worst episodes of flooding in its history – which the mayor has blamed on climate change
Inside the basilica: Floodwater overruns part of the centuries-old St Mark’s Basilica in the low-lying St Mark’s Square today
A crowd of people wade through a street in Venice today with hotels and shops on either side fearing damage from the flood
Tourists lugging heavy suitcases waded in thigh-high galoshes or barefoot through the submerged alleys, as water taxi and gondola drivers baled sewage-tainted water out of their trashed vessels
A woman wearing blue protective footwear steadies herself by the side of a flooded alleyway in Venice today
A woman wears bin bags as she carries her suitcase while wading through high water today
Stranded: Wind and high water brought a gondola on to the pavement in Venice, where it remained today
The whole of St Mark’s Square is seen submerged today, causing ‘irreparable’ damage to the historic St Mark’s Basilica
A gondola rests over a barrier near a footbridge after severe flooding in the city
A Banksy artwork of a migrant child is seen partially submerged by the floodwater in Venice today
Italian soldiers walk past a flooded cafe by the side of St Mark’s Square as they help the clean-up operation in Venice today
One person, a man in his 70s, was electrocuted when water entered his home on the barrier island of Pellestrina. Another fatality was also reported in the city, although it was not clear if the flood waters were directly responsible for his death.
IS CLIMATE CHANGE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FLOODING OF VENICE?
The rising floodwaters were caused by a devastating combination of high spring tides and a storm surge.
The latter was whipped up by high, northeasterly winds blowing across the Adriatic Sea.
Locals refer to these exceptional tide peaks as ‘Acqua alta’.
The present Acqua alta is the second largest in recorded history.
The frequency of these events appears to be increasing, with half of the worst recorded tides in Venice having occurred in the last two decades.
Experts believe that climate change will make storm surges occur with greater regularity.
It is feared that the warming climate is causing the jet stream in the northern hemisphere to become more ‘wavy’ — shunting low-pressure systems into the Mediterranean.
This will increase the risk of surges meeting high spring tides and leading to Acqua alta — and extreme flooding.
In addition, scientists have warned that Venice and much of Italy’s northern Adriatic coastline could disappear entirely by 2100 because of rising sea levels.
Luca Zaia, the premier of the Veneto region, told Italian media that the city was ‘faced with total, apocalyptic devastation’.
‘I’m not exaggerating – 80 per cent of the city is under water, the damage is unimaginable,’ he said.
Damage included five ferries that serve as water buses, a critical means of transportation in a city with no road or rail links except to the mainland.
Water poured through wooden boards that shop and hotel owners have previously placed in front of doors to hold back water during flooding.
Mayor Brugnaro said Venice was ‘on its knees’ and warned that the city had suffered ‘widespread devastation’ as he waded through the flooded St Mark’s Square.
‘A high tide of 187cm [74 inches] is going to leave an indelible wound,’ calling the floods a ‘dramatic situation’ and warning it would cost hundreds of millions of euros to clean up the damage.
In addition, the flood alarm rang out once more today to signal that the tide is rising again after it receded somewhat overnight.
Heavy rainfall across Italy, combined with high tides that were pushed into Venice by southerly winds, brought chaos to a city built on canals.
The mayor said the floods were ‘the effects of climate change’ and demanded that a long-delayed barrier protection project ‘must be finished soon’.
The so-called ‘Moses’ plan involves 78 moveable gates under the sea that can be raised to protect Venice’s lagoon during high tides.
The project began in 2003 but has been plagued by corruption and rising costs and there is no completion date in sight.
In addition, a recent attempt to test part of the barrier caused worrying vibrations and engineers discovered parts had rusted.
‘They’ve done nothing, neglected it. It doesn’t work and they have stolen six billion euros. The politicians should all be put in jail,’ said local Dino Perzolla, 62.
Zaia, the regional governor, told Italian TV that the barriers were almost complete, but said it was not even clear if they would work against this week’s intense flooding.
A greengrocer pulls a cart of produce through high water in Venice today in the wake of catastrophic flooding in the city
An entrance hall at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice is seen submerged with the visitor’s area deserted today after the floods
A ferry is stranded on the docks as Venetians woke today to devastating scenes after the second highest tide recorded in the lagoon city flooded its historic basilica and left many of its squares and alleyways deep underwater
People walk past a water taxi which is stranded up an alleyway by the entrance to a hotel after the heavy floods in Venice
A boat rests on the shore after it was dragged there by high tides and strong winds in northern Italy last night
Before and after: People walk in St Mark’s Square (left) just hours before the plaza was submerged by floods overnight (right)
Firefighters on a search and rescue mission at a flooded home in Venice, one of dozens of operations they carried out
A group of people in orange protective footwear look on from the flooded Piazzetta dei Leoncini near St Mark’s Basilica
Workers assess the damage at a dock in Venice where part of a fence has been knocked over and destroyed by flooding
The Banksy artwork, portraying a migrant child wearing a life jacket, is seen on the wall of a building in Venice today
An aerial image released by Italian firefighters shows the shoreline of Venice after the flood which submerged the city
People wade through water which submerged most of this rubbish bin and threatened shop windows in Venice today
A long way from the water: A boat is stranded in the Calle delle Rasse alleyway today after the high water levels receded
People walk through water outside La Fenice theatre today where the electrical system at La Fenice theater was deactivated after waters entered the service area
Hotels including the Gritti Palace (left) and businesses including French brand Celine (right) suffered severe flood damage
A man spreads his arms as he stands knee-deep in water in St Mark’s Square, the centrepiece of Venice
A woman carries her luggage through a flooded St Mark’s Square as she checks her phone on Wednesday
Chairs and pews are stacked inside St Mark’s Basilica in Venice after the church was flooded for only the sixth time ever
Under water: People stand on steps in Venice this morning while others wade into the water with boots and waterproof gear
Italian environment minister Sergio Costa blamed climate change and the ‘tropicalisation’ of violent rainfall and strong winds.
‘This is what is happening more and more often in the Mediterranean,’ Costa said on Facebook. ‘Global warming will destroy our planet if we do not immediately reverse the direction.’
Professor Nigel Wright, an expert in flood risk management at Nottingham Trent University, said the high water levels were a ‘double whammy of an extreme high tide and the low pressure from a storm raising the sea level’.
‘With sea levels rising this is likely to become more and more common causing untold damage to centuries-old buildings,’ he warned.
‘The city has long planned for a defence system around the Venice lagoon, but such plans take a long time to plan, agree and implement,’ he said.
The basilica’s sixth flood in 1,200 years was its fourth in the last 20, and the vestibule of the church was inundated with water today.
The flood sparked fears for the church’s collection of rich mosaics and artworks, and dirty water was swirling around marble tombs in the crypt today.
‘We’re talking about millions of euros worth of damage,’ said Carlo Alberto Tesserin, first procurator of the Basilica, who is the president of a team responsible for managing the historic site.
‘We said last year that the Basilica had aged 20 years in a high tide. It risks having aged much more than that in this one,’ he said.
Venice archbishop Francesco Moraglia told a news conference that ‘the Basilica is suffering structural damage because the water has risen and so it’s causing irreparable damage, especially when it dries out in the lower section of the mosaics and tiling.’
A man in a red raincoat wades through the high waters of St Mark’s Square while others look on from archways at the side
Shop assistants clean up a flooded glassware shop in Venice today after the high-water mark reached more than six feet
Water fills the floor of a shop where chairs and other items of furniture have been stacked on tables to keep them dry
A man lifts a trolley above the water while others wade through the high tide this morning after intense flooding yesterday
Tourists pull their suitcases along specially-constructed walkways today after the streets and alleys were submerged
Stranded: A Venetian ferry lies on its side near a bridge today after high waters caused huge damage in Venice
Gondolas rest by the side of a canal while a man walks along a pavement which is also submerged in water in Venice today
In addition, the electrical system at La Fenice theatre was switched off after floodwaters entered a service area, and firefighters tackled a blaze at the Ca’ Pesaro modern art gallery which was caused by a short circuit.
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte announced he was on his way to Venice later today to inspect the scale of the damage.
One of his colleagues, education minister Lorenzo Fioramonti, also raised global warming as a likely cause and said ‘the consequences of climate change do not allow for delay’.
Mayor Brugnaro said he would declare a disaster zone and ask the government to call a state of emergency, which would allow funds to be freed to address the damage.
The ‘acqua alta,’ or high waters, rose above six feet as the flood alarm sounded across Venice yesterday.
‘It was unbelievable, the water rose so quickly,’ said resident Tiziano Collarin, 59, as he surveyed the damage. ‘Windows were blown out, there are those who have lost everything.’
Marina Vector, who was today scooping buckets of water out of the shop she runs with her husband, said the flooding was ‘apocalyptic, enough to give you goosebumps’.
‘The storm was so bad it broke the marble flood barrier out front. Nothing’s survived,’ she said.
Workers inspect the damage on the Venice shoreline where they were picking up parts of a broken fence today
This gondola jetty was dragged inland to the flooded St Mark’s Square, with the basilica behind it after the flooding
A woman wearing gloves picks up items from the floor of a shop selling masks as the clean-up begins following the floods
Pedestrians take pictures of a small boat today which was dragged up to the pavement by the severe floods in Venice
The mayor of Venice said the floods – which left boats such as this one stranded – were ‘the effects of climate change’ and demanded that a long-delayed barrier protection project ‘must be finished soon’
The pillars of a fence are strewn across the ground and partly submerged in water as the flooding caused huge damage
A shopkeeper slops water out of his flooded shop in Venice early this morning after near-record flooding yesterday
The exceptionally intense ‘acqua alta,’ or high waters, peaked at six feet as the flood alarm sounded across the Italian city of canals, the tide monitoring centre said (pictured: A greengrocer pushes his cart through St Mark´s Square)
Keeping their feet dry: People walk on a temporary platform set up in front of St. Mark’s Basilica in a flooded Venice
The next day: Stranded gondolas are pictured on the Riva degli Schiavoni, after being washed away during an exceptional overnight ‘Alta Acqua’ high tide water level early on November 13
Stranded gondolas washed away at Riva degli Schiavoni, with the San Giorgio Maggiore basilica in the background on Wednesday
A stranded taxi boat is pictured on Riva degli Schiavoni after being washed away during a high tide
Stranded gondolas on Riva degli Schiavoni on Wednesday the day after powerful rainstorms hit Italy with the worst affected areas in the south and in Venice, where there was widespread flooding
A man in his 70s died on the barrier island of Pellestrina, apparently of electrocution, said Danny Carrella, an official on the island of 3,500 inhabitants.
Italian media also reported that a second man had died during the flooding, although there were no further details.
Amid the carnage, tourists were seen wading through flooded streets to seek shelter as a fierce wind whipped up waves in St. Mark’s Square – where one man even went for a swim.
Venice residents have been urged to take pictures and video footage of the damage to their homes in order to claim compensation later.
At least 60 boats were damaged in the floods, according to civil protection authorities, including some pedestrian ferry boats. Three barges are said to have sunk.
Tourists with heavy suitcases were forced to wade barefoot through the submerged alleyways while gondoliers baled water out of their trashed vessel.
Two French visitors who were caught out said they had ‘effectively swum’ after some of the wooden platforms placed around the city overturned.
Antique pieces of furniture could be seen submerged in low-lying hotels and homes while shopkeepers slopped water out of their flooded businesses.
People wearing raincoats and tall boots help to carry a table along the waterside in Venice today following the flooding
A man stands inside his cafe where water has covered the floor and chairs and tables have been stacked to keep them dry
Three people walk in a flooded area of Venice today, one of them taking a picture on his phone and all three of them with waterproof covers on their feet
Two shopkeepers try to clean their store after the passage of the exceptionally high tide that reached 187cm on November 12 in Venice
A shoe store in disarray with wet and damaged cardboard boxes and litter strewn across the floor
Damage suffered by a fabric store in Venice with shopkeepers desperately trying to prevent their goods from getting to the flood water
A woman uses an electric pump to move water from the shop floor of a pharmacy after the ancient city was struck by exceptionally high floods
The effects the flood water has on businesses can be devastating. Here the flood waters reach up to the level of the mannequins inside a shop last night in Venice
A room in the flooded Gritti Palace is pictured during an exceptional ‘Alta Acqua’ high tide water level on November 12
People cross a flooded square during an exceptional ‘Alta Acqua’ high tide water level on November 12, in Venice
The head of the Venice hotel association said the damage was enormous, with many hotels losing electricity and lacking pumps to remove water.
Tourists with ground floor rooms were had to be evacuated to higher floors as the waters rose Tuesday night, the association director Claudio Scarpa told ANSA.
German tourist Gabi Brueckner, 58, said the nighttime drama had been ‘horrifying’.
She echoed the mayor in blaming climate change and said she feared like many people that ‘it will get worse and at some point Venice will drown’.
Water taxis attempting to drop people off at the glamorous and historic hotels along the Grand Canal discovered the gangways had been washed away, and had to help passengers clamber through windows.
The overnight surge triggered several fires, including one at the International Gallery of Modern Art Ca’ Pesaro, with hundreds of calls to the fire brigade.
In addition, around 150 firefighters were deployed to rescue people stranded on jetties and to recover boats broken free from their moorings.
In Matera, this year’s European Capital of Culture, rain water cascaded through the streets and inundated the city’s famous cave-dwelling district.
The entrance to St. Mark’s Basilica is flooded on the occasion of a high tide in Venice last night
A room in the flooded Gritti Palace is pictured during an exceptional ‘Alta Acqua’ high tide water level on November 12
Since 2003, a massive infrastructure project has been underway to protect the city, but it has been plagued by cost overruns, scandals and delays (pictured: A room in the flooded Gritti Palace is pictured during the high tide)
People walk in a flooded St.Mark’s Square during a period of seasonal high water in Venice