Extreme weather

Tourists wade through Venice as 70 per cent of city is immersed by the worst flooding in a decade

  • Water levels rose by 1.53 metres, forcing the suspension of water taxis and the closure of schools
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 2:50am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 10:52pm

Around three-quarters of the Italian lagoon city of Venice has been flooded after strong winds raised the water level by 1.53 metres before receding, officials said Monday.

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. The last time levels topped 1.6 metres, which had been forecast, was in December 1979.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said a series of underwater barriers being erected in the lagoon, nicknamed Moses, would have prevented the inundation. The project is long overdue, beset by cost overruns and corruption scandals.

Brugnaro said he had requested to speak with the Premier Giuseppe Conte to underline the urgency of the project, which would raise barriers when the tide reaches 1.07 metres. That happens on average four times a year.

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Tourists waded through the streets of the city on Monday. The public transport company closed the water taxi service due to the emergency, with connections remaining active only to the outlying islands.

The city, built on a series of islands, deals with the high water by erecting a series of risers that permit people to circulate by foot. Residents and businesses typically reinforce doors with metal or wooden panels to prevent water from entering bottom floors.

Much of Italy is under alert for flooding from heavy rains, a problem exacerbated by a lack of maintenance of river beds.

Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia says the flooding that immersed 70 per cent of the city could reach the levels of the 1966 flood that struck both Venice and Florence. In a message on Instagram, he called off schools in the region for a second day on Tuesday.