Floods are submerging Venice, a city that’s fairly used to high water. This week’s deluge is the worst in Venice in more than 50 years. Officials expect hundreds of millions of euros in damage. And many are calling for better protections for the historic city.
Venice, a city built amid a system of canals, is always flood-prone. But this week, heavy rains and a full Moon brought especially high tides. On top of that, southerly winds pushed the waters into Venice.
On Tuesday, water levels reached 74 inches. That was the second-highest level ever recorded in the city—just two-and-a-half inches lower than the 1966 flood. Another wave of high water followed yesterday.
“Venice is on its knees,’’ Mayor Luigi Brugnaro says. “St. Mark’s Basilica has sustained serious damage, like the entire city and its islands.”
The crypt beneath St. Mark’s Basilica flooded for only the second time in its 925-year history. Water entered the windows and bypassed all defenses. At a modern art gallery, a short circuit set off a fire.
Meanwhile, tourists floated suitcases through St. Mark’s Square or carried them atop walkway platforms. Water poured through wooden boards that shop and hotel owners previously placed in front of doors to hold back water. Hotel guests on ground floors moved to upper floors overnight.
“I have often seen St. Mark’s Square covered with water,’’ longtime resident Francesco Moraglia says. “Yesterday there were waves that seemed to be the seashore.”
Photos on social media showed a city ferry, taxi boats, and gondolas grounded on walkways. At least 60 boats were damaged, according to authorities.
The Venetian island of Pellestrina was one of the worst-hit areas. Water came over the banks of the canal and filled the island like a basin.
Mayor Brugnaro is calling for a speedy completion of a long-delayed project to construct offshore barriers. Nicknamed “Moses,” the project’s undersea barriers are supposed to limit flooding. (See “Moses: Saving a City.”) But cost and corruption have delayed the project, and there’s no guarantee the barriers will work against high flooding.
Brugnaro insists he worries about the cost of rebuilding—but even more about “the very future of the city.”