Venice a "disaster zone" as floods sweep through city

Venice was swept by the second highest tide ever recorded swept through it overnight (12-13th Nov), flooding its historic basilica and leaving many squares and alleyways deep under water. Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has described the city as a 'disaster zone'.

A local man from Pellestrina, one of many islands in the Venetian lagoon, died when he was struck by lightning while using an electric water pump, the fire brigade said. 

City officials said the tide peaked at 187 cm (6ft 2ins) at 10.50 p.m. (2150 GMT) on Tuesday, just short of the record 194 cm set in 1966. 

Night-time footage showed a torrent of water whipped up by high winds raging through the city centre while Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, described a scene of “apocalyptic devastation”

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said the situation was dramatic. “We ask the government to help us. The cost will be high. This is the result of climate change,” he posted on Twitter. 

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He 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. 

Saint Mark’s Square was submerged by more than one metre of water, while the adjacent Saint Mark’s Basilica was flooded for the sixth time in 1,200 years - but the fourth in the last 20. 

A flood barrier was designed in 1984 to protect Venice from the kind of high tides that hit the city on Tuesday, but the multi-billion euro project, known as Mose, has been plagued by corruption scandals and is still not operative. 

Brugnaro said the basilica had suffered “grave damage”, but no details were available on the state of its mainly Byzantine interior, famous for its rich mosaics. 

Its administrator said the basilica had aged 20 years in a single day when it was flooded last year. Further bad weather is forecast for the coming days.

Image via @LuigiBrugnaro Twitter.

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