Some of Venice’s most iconic streets have been left underwater after the Italian city was struck by the highest tide in more than 50 years.
Waves could be seen being blown by high winds in St Mark’s Square, with water levels reaching 6ft (1.87m). The last time the historic city experienced such severe flooding was in 1966, when the tide reached 6.3ft (1.94m).
Venice’s government reportedly now intends to ‘submit a request for a state of emergency’ to the country’s central government, with Mayor Luigi Brugnaro blaming climate change for the extreme ‘acqua alta’.
Two people have died on the island of Pellestrina, a strip of land that acts as a barrier between the southern Venetian Lagoon and the Adriatic Sea, BBC News reports. An unnamed man was electrocuted while trying to start a pump in his home, while a second individual was found dead elsewhere.
Shocking pictures shared on social media show visitors and residents struggling through the deep waters in search of shelter. Some used temporary platforms that had been raised above the water, while others could be seen wading around in wellies.
One Venice tour guide informed UNILAD they have been left ‘isolated at home’ due to the floods, and have been unable to get out and see the extent of what is going on.
— See Venice Tours (@luisella_romeo) November 13, 2019
The sun has left Venice and so we go back to Lucca after lunch. This was during high tide pic.twitter.com/b4rRbEgFlW
— Beth Smith (@ehgsmith) November 11, 2019
— Cristian Bonetto (@CristianBonetto) November 12, 2019
45% of Venice has been left flooded, with 30 volunteers set to assist with the clean-up operation, reports CNN.
Many popular tourist hotspots have been left completely submerged, with St Mark’s Square being one of the worst affected sites. The magnificent Saint Mark’s Basilica was left flooded for what was only the sixth time in its 1,200-year history.
Meanwhile, citizens and businesses have been advised to keep evidence of any damage inflicted on their properties in order to request compensation.
Mayor Brugnaro has warned the floods will ‘leave a permanent mark’ on the city, and has asked the Italian government for help:
The situation is dramatic. We ask the government to help us. The cost will be high. This is the result of climate change. A high tide of 187 cm is going to leave an indelible wound.
Greenpeace Italy Climate and Energy campaigner Luca Iacoboni told UNILAD:
From North to South, in these days Italy is impacted by a series of extreme climate events, and what is happening in Venice is a meaningful example. This is not ‘bad weather’, we are living in a climate emergency.
We ask the Italian government to immediately provide help to people affected by these extreme events and to work effectively on the causes of climate change, starting from a quick change of the energy policies, abandoning the fossil fuels (natural gas, oil and coal) that are one of the main causes of the climate crisis we’re facing.
If politicians and big corporations all over the World continue to talk without taking action on climate, events like this one in Venice will be more frequent and intense. The climate emergency need bold actions, not useless words.
A project to protect Venice from floodwater has been discussed since 2003, however rising costs, scandals and delays has so far meant it has yet to come to fruition.
Our thoughts are with the people of Venice as the clean-up operation begins in their beautiful city.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.