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Venice floods again: St Mark’s Square is swamped with water

Venice has been flooded with water once again as officials warn of a ‘terrible situation’ a year after the city suffered a billion pounds of damage during high tides. 

Bad weather including heavy rain and high winds caused the tide in Venice to rise and flood waters reached a height of 122cm this morning, catching the authorities off guard before they could activate the huge flood barriers that were rolled out just two months ago.

Those tides then reached a 145 cm peak as strong sirocco winds blew in from Croatia and two rivers flooded near the sea around the historic Italian city.

The system of 78 flood gates, known as Mose, guard the entrance to the Venetian lagoon and are designed to protect the city from tides of up to 3 metres (10 ft). However, they require 48-hours notice to be activated.

Weather bulletins in past days had forecast rainfall pushing sea levels up to 120 centimetres, below the 130 cm threshold at which the flood barriers are operated.

A woman in a red dress on a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8, following following heavy rains and strong winds 

People walk across a flooded street on Tuesday in Venice. Bad weather including heavy rain and high winds caused the tide in Venice to rise and flood waters reached a height of 122cm this morning

People walk across a flooded street on Tuesday in Venice. Bad weather including heavy rain and high winds caused the tide in Venice to rise and flood waters reached a height of 122cm this morning

A view shows a flooded St. Mark's Square on December 8. Waters are expected to rise to a maximum of 145cm later today, according to local authorities

A view shows a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8. Waters are expected to rise to a maximum of 145cm later today, according to local authorities

A person takes photos while standing on a flooded St. Mark's Square on December 8

A person takes photos while standing on a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8

People walk across an arcade by a flooded St. Mark's Square on December 8, following heavy rains and strong winds

People walk across an arcade by a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8, following heavy rains and strong winds

Video footage taken in the city shows the iconic St Mark’s Square, or Piazza San Marco, swamped with flood water. 

Carlo Alberto Tessein, procurator of the Basilica of San Marco, described the situation as ‘terrible’ and said the water had got inside the historic building, risking damage.  

The city’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, wrote on Twitter: ‘3.10pm… Now I’m at the Centro Maree to follow the development of the situation. Next maximum 145 cm at 16:40, due to the anomalous wind reinforcement. The MOSE system is not active.’  

Brugnaro said that the weather had suddenly worsened and water had reached a 145 cm peak as strong sirocco winds blew in from Croatia and two rivers flooded near the sea around Venice.  

He called for more rapid and reactive protocols in the operation of Mose in order to face sudden weather changes.

A person takes photos while standing on a flooded St. Mark's Square on December 8, in Venice following a high tide "Alta Acqua" event following heavy rains and strong winds

A person takes photos while standing on a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8, in Venice following a high tide ‘Alta Acqua’ event following heavy rains and strong winds

People talk photos in the middle of a flooded St. Mark's Square on December 8

People talk photos in the middle of a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8

‘The situation is terrible, we are under water,’ said Carlo Alberto Tesserin, responsible for managing Saint Mark’s Basilica, adding that if the water rose further all the internal chapels would be flooded.

The centre for tidal forecasts in the Venice area said the water would recede to 120 cm on Wednesday and be back up to 135 cm on Thursday.

High tides, or ‘acqua alta’ in Italian, have been regular occurrences in Venice over the years, caused by a combination of factors exacerbated by climate change – from rising sea levels and unusually high tides to land subsidence that has caused the ground level of the city to sink.

Of the 24 tides ever recorded above the 140-cm level, 15 have occurred in the last two decades, including five last November when the city’s St Mark’s Square was submerged under a metre of water.

Designed in 1984, construction of the multi-billion euro Mose project started in 2003 but was plagued by delays, corruption and cost overruns. The 78 yellow barriers were tested in July and then first raised in October. 

People walk across an shopping arcade by a flooded St. Mark's Square on December 8, in Venice following a high tide "Alta Acqua" event following heavy rains and strong winds

People walk across an shopping arcade by a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8, in Venice following a high tide ‘Alta Acqua’ event following heavy rains and strong winds

A woman clears her flooded shop on December 8, 2020 in Venice following a high tide "Alta Acqua" event following heavy rains and strong winds, and the mobile gates of the MOSE Experimental Electromechanical Module that protects the city of Venice from floods, were not lifted

A woman clears her flooded shop on December 8, 2020 in Venice following a high tide ‘Alta Acqua’ event following heavy rains and strong winds, and the mobile gates of the MOSE Experimental Electromechanical Module that protects the city of Venice from floods, were not lifted

It comes after Venice was hit by flooding three times last year – twice in November and once in December – causing a billion euros in damage. 

In November 2019, Italy declared a state of emergency after floods brought carnage to the city, flooding its historic basilica and leaving ‘widespread devastation’. 

Venice authorities said the damage last year ran to hundreds of millions of pounds, including millions in St Mark’s Basilica alone.

A man walks across an arcade by a flooded St. Mark's Square on December 8, 2020 in Venice following a high tide "Alta Acqua" event following heavy rains and strong winds, and the mobile gates of the MOSE Experimental Electromechanical Module that protects the city of Venice from floods, were not lifted

A man walks across an arcade by a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8, 2020 in Venice following a high tide ‘Alta Acqua’ event following heavy rains and strong winds, and the mobile gates of the MOSE Experimental Electromechanical Module that protects the city of Venice from floods, were not lifted

A view shows a flooded St. Mark's Square and a luminous Christmas Tree installation by Italian artist Fabrizio Plessi on December 8

A view shows a flooded St. Mark’s Square and a luminous Christmas Tree installation by Italian artist Fabrizio Plessi on December 8

A shop owner protects water from getting in on December 8, in Venice following a high tide "Alta Acqua" event following heavy rains and strong winds

A shop owner protects water from getting in on December 8, in Venice following a high tide ‘Alta Acqua’ event following heavy rains and strong winds

A view shows a flooded St. Mark's Square by the Doge's Palace and a luminous Christmas Tree installation by Italian artist Fabrizio Plessi on Tuesday

A view shows a flooded St. Mark’s Square by the Doge’s Palace and a luminous Christmas Tree installation by Italian artist Fabrizio Plessi on Tuesday

Venice archbishop Francesco Moraglia said at the time that the church had suffered ‘irreparable damage’ and the crypt was flooded for just the second time in its history.

The high waters in 2019 brought misery to local residents – stranding boats and gondolas, battering shops and hotels and leaving many of the city’s squares and alleyways deep underwater. 

In June this year, a quarter of Venice was submerged by a near-record high tide, at a time of year when such flooding is rare.

The flooding in summer came just two days after Italy reopened its borders to tourists in an attempt to salvage its summer season following coronavirus lockdown.

Previous times Venice has flooded 

A woman crosses the flooded St Mark's Square on November 13, 2019, where Venice's 1,200-year-old basilica (pictured behind her) was flooded by the high tide

A woman crosses the flooded St Mark’s Square on November 13, 2019, where Venice’s 1,200-year-old basilica (pictured behind her) was flooded by the high tide 

Venice was hit by flooding three times last year – twice in November and once in December – causing a billion euros in damage.

On November 12, 2019, the city was devastated by an acqua alta that reached 187 centimeters, with almost 90% of the city flooding. 

The northern Italian city of canals was hit by the highest tide in more than 50 years last year, with tourists wading through flooded streets to seek shelter as a fierce wind whipped up waves in St. Mark’s Square.

The exceptionally intense ‘acqua alta,’ or high waters, peaked at 1.87 metres (six feet) on November 12, 2019, according to the tide monitoring centre.

In November 2019, Italy declared a state of emergency after floods brought carnage to the city, flooding its historic basilica and leaving ‘widespread devastation’. 

Venice authorities said the damage last year ran to hundreds of millions of pounds, including millions in St Mark’s Basilica alone.

Venice archbishop Francesco Moraglia said at the time that the church had suffered ‘irreparable damage’ and the crypt was flooded for just the second time in its history. 

The high waters in 2019 brought misery to local residents – stranding boats and gondolas, battering shops and hotels and leaving many of the city’s squares and alleyways deep underwater. 

 

 


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