Venice ‘on its knees’ after second-worst flood ever recorded

Water hits a mark just seven centimetres (2 1/2 inches) lower than a historic flood in 1966

A man cleans up a gondola boat after a high tide, in Venice, Italy, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (Andrea Merola/ANSA via AP)

A man cleans up a gondola boat after a high tide, in Venice, Italy, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (Andrea Merola/ANSA via AP)

The worst flooding in Venice in more than 50 years prompted calls Wednesday to better protect the historic city from rising sea levels as officials calculated hundreds of millions of euros in damage.

The water reached 1.87 metres (6.14 feet) above average sea level Tuesday, the second-highest level ever recorded in the city and just 7 centimetres (2 1/2 inches) lower than the historic 1966 flood. Another wave of exceptionally high water followed Wednesday.

“Venice is on its knees,’’ Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said on Twitter. “St. Mark’s Basilica has sustained serious damage, like the entire city and its islands.”

One death was blamed on the flooding, on the barrier island of Pellestrina. A man in his 70s was apparently electrocuted when he tried to start a pump in his dwelling, said Danny Carrella, an official on the island of 3,500 inhabitants.

In Venice, the crypt beneath St. Mark’s Basilica was inundated for only the second time in its history. Damage was also reported at the Ca’ Pesaro modern art gallery, where a short circuit set off a fire, and at La Fenice theatre, where authorities turned off electricity as a precaution after the control room was flooded.

Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini, said no damage had been reported to art collections in museums throughout the city. Many sites remained closed to tourists, and La Fenice cancelled concerts Wednesday and Thursday evening.

Tourists floated suitcases through St. Mark’s Square, where officials removed walkways to prevent them from drifting away. Wooden boards that shop and hotel owners have placed on doors in previous floods couldn’t hold back the water.

The water was so high that nothing less than thigh-high boots afforded protection, and one man was even filmed swimming bare-chested in St. Mark’s Square during what appeared to be the height of the flood.

“I have often seen St. Mark’s Square covered with water,’’ Venice’s patriarch, Monsignor Francesco Moraglia, told reporters. “Yesterday there were waves that seemed to be the seashore.”

Brugnaro said damage would reach hundreds of millions of euros. He called on Rome to declare a state of emergency.

“We are not just talking about calculating the damages, but of the very future of the city’’ Brugnaro told reporters. “Because the population drain also is a result of this.”

He described “untold damages, to houses, shops, activities, not to mention monuments and works of art. We risked our lives as well.”

The flooding was caused by southerly winds that pushed a high tide, exacerbated a full moon, into the city.

READ MORE: Cruise ship slams into tourist boat, dock in Venice

Rising sea levels because of climate changecoupled with Venice’s well-documented sinkingmake the city built amid a system of canals particularly vulnerable. The sea level in Venice is 10 centimetres (4 inches) higher than it was 50 years ago, according to the city’s tide office.

Damage included five ferries that serve as water buses, a critical means of transportation. Photos on social media showed taxi boats and gondolas grounded on walkways flanking canals.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

A ferry stranded on the docks in Venice, Italy, after an exceptional high tide, reaching 1.87 meters above sea level on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (Venice Municipality via AP)

A ferry stranded on the docks in Venice, Italy, after an exceptional high tide, reaching 1.87 meters above sea level on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (Venice Municipality via AP)

Tourists pull their suitcases along catwalks set up during a high tide, in Venice, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Tourists pull their suitcases along catwalks set up during a high tide, in Venice, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

People wade through water during a high tide, in Venice, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

People wade through water during a high tide, in Venice, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Stranded gondolas lie on the bank in Venice, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Luigi Costantini)

Stranded gondolas lie on the bank in Venice, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Luigi Costantini)

Just Posted

Duncan’s Knights of Columbus hand out cheques to a slew of deserving organizations in an online event Nov. 8, 2020. (Submitted)
Duncan Knights of Columbus hand cheques to lucky 13 in virtual event

Another historic first for the Knights was to have two area mayors join the presentation

Changes to the holidays due to COVID-19 will be a challenge for people with dementia. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Webinars aim to help those with dementia approach holidays

“The holidays can present difficulties for people living with dementia for a multitude of reasons”

Theresa Bodger at the Duncan Curling Club, displaying the championship trophy and a photo of her mom, Georgina Falt. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Cowichan Alzheimer’s fundraiser surpasses $65,000 since inception

Courier editor and his wife overwhelmed by continued support

“Jeff Abbott sinks in a mass of mud where a tributary to Coon Creek earlier ran. The creek supplies 60 families in Youbou with drinking water.” (Lake News, Nov. 19, 1980)
Flashback: Winter tires, winter weather, watershed watch

Remember these stories from Lake Cowichan

Duncan’s Callum Davison is up for a bursary from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. (Submitted)
Duncan golfer Callum Davison up for national bursary

20-year-old finished fifth in Canada Life Series this summer

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

An Oceana Canada audit of Canadian fish stocks reveals a growing number with critical populations, calling on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to enact existing commitments. (File photo)
B.C.’s declining fisheries the result of poor DFO management: audit

Oceana Canada calls for follow through on government commitments

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Randy Bell. (File photo)
Former northern B.C. mayoral candidate arrested after allegedly refusing to wear mask

Randy Bell handcuffed and given a warning at Bulkley Valley Credit Union in Smithers

James Corden on the Late Late Show talking about BC Ferries on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. (Screenshot)
‘You’ll see it when you see it’: BC Ferries mask graphic gains James Corden’s attention

Turns out, James Corden fans were just as quick as B.C. social media users to pick up on the dual imagery

Most Read