BusinessMirror

Italy declares state of emergency in Venice after high tides

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RoMe—Italy’s government declared a state of emergency Thursday in floodravag­ed Venice, seeking to release funds to repair the historic lagoon city after it was damaged by the highest tide in 50 years.

A Cabinet meeting approved a special decree that included €20 million ($21.7 million) in immediate financial aid aimed at helping the city recover.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte described the flooding as “a blow to the heart of our country,” after spending Wednesday night in Venice, where worldfamou­s monuments, homes and businesses were hit hard by the exceptiona­l flooding.

Venice’s mayor said the damage is estimated at “hundreds of millions of euros.” Mayor Luigi Brugnaro blamed climate change for the “dramatic situation” in the historical city and called for the speedy completion of the city’s long-delayed Moses flood defense project.

The water levels reached 1.87 meters (over 6 feet, 1 inch) above sea level Tuesday, the second-highest level ever recorded in the city and just 7 centimeter­s (2 1/2 inches) lower than the historic 1966 flood. Another wave of exceptiona­lly high water followed Wednesday.

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

Although the waters have fallen from the peak reached late Tuesday,SaintMark’sSquarerem­ained partially flooded on Thursday and a new peak water level is expected for Friday morning.

In Venice, the crypt beneath Saint 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 the La Fenice theater, where authoritie­s turned off the electricit­y as a precaution after the control room was f looded.

Venice Archbishop Francesco Moraglia said Saint Mark ’s Basilica had suffered “irreparabl­e damage,” with salty water posing risks to its mosaics, columns and pavements.

Venice for years has been struggling with unwieldly amounts of tourists, the constant deteriorat­ion of its fragile lagoon environmen­t and a dwindling population.

Tuesday’s devastatin­g floods have reignited a yearslong debate

Moses, a multibilli­on-euro flood defenses project that has been under constructi­on since 2003.

The project has not yet been activated, after being delayed a number of times due to corruption scandals, costs overruns and environmen­talists’ opposition over its effects on Venice’s lagoon ecosystem.

Italian Transport and Infrastruc­ture Minister Paola de Micheli pledged Thursday that the Moses project will be completed by 2021, but part of it could start work even earlier.

rising sea levels because of climate change coupled with Venice’s well-documented sinking make the northeaste­rn Italian city built amid a system of canals particular­ly vulnerable to the elements. The sea level in Venice is 10 centimeter­s (4 inches) higher than it was 50 years ago, according to the city’s tide office.

The damages this week included five ferries that serve as water buses, a critical means of transporta­tion in the city. Photos on social media showed taxi boats and gondolas grounded on walkways flanking city canals. AP

 ?? AndrEA MErolA/AnsA ViA AP ?? A womAN jumps over a puddle during cleaning following a flooding in Venice, italy, on Thursday. The worst flooding in Venice in more than 50 years has prompted calls 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 meters above sea level Tuesday, the secondhigh­est level ever recorded in the city.
AndrEA MErolA/AnsA ViA AP A womAN jumps over a puddle during cleaning following a flooding in Venice, italy, on Thursday. The worst flooding in Venice in more than 50 years has prompted calls 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 meters above sea level Tuesday, the secondhigh­est level ever recorded in the city.

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