Venice flooding hits second highest level ever

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The mayor of Venice has blamed climate change as flooding of the historic lagoon city hit the second-highest level ever, as the city braced for another wave on Wednesday.

The high-water mark hit 74in late on Tuesday, meaning more than 85% of the city was flooded. The highest level recorded was 76in during infamous flooding in 1966.

A man in his 70s died on the barrier island of Pellestrina, apparently of electrocution, said Danny Carrella, an official on the island of 3,500 inhabitants.

Photos on social media showed a city ferry and taxi boats grounded on walkways flanking canals. Already on Tuesday, much of the city was under water, inundating the famed St Mark’s Basilica and raising new concerns over damage to mosaics and other artworks.

Tourists and residents walk on temporary  catwalks
Tourists and residents walk on temporary catwalks (Luca Bruno/AP)

Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro blamed climate change for the “dramatic situation” and called for a speedy completion of a long-delayed project to construct offshore barriers.

Called Moses, the moveable under-sea barriers are meant to limit flooding of the city, caused by southerly winds that push the tide into Venice, but the controversial project is opposed by environmentalists concerned about damaging the delicate lagoon eco-system, and it has been delayed by cost overruns and corruption scandals, with no completion date in sight.

St Mark’s Basilica
St Mark’s Basilica (Luca Bruno/AP)

“Despite 5 billion euros under water, St Mark’s Square certainly wouldn’t be secure,” he said, referring to one of Venice’s lowest points that floods when there is an inundation of 31.5in.

Mr Brugnaro said the flood levels represent “a wound that will leave indelible signs”.

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