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Venice underwater: Mayor estimates damage at hundreds of millions of euros

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Screen grab France 24

Venice is struggling with the worst floods seen in half a century as the city's mayor estimated the damage caused so far to be in the hundreds of millions of euros.

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Venice braced itself for more rising waters on Thursday as Italy's government prepared to take emergency measures for the canal city struck by an exceptionally high tide this week. 

Heavy rains coincided with a full moon that brought high tides that were pushed into the historic Italian city by southerly winds. 

Venetians awoke to sirens indicating that flooding was expected to exceed 130 centimetres (50 inches), enough to bring the dirty, brackish water back again into the UNESCO city's historic centre. 

On Tuesday, the highest tide in 50 years ripped through the city, peaking at 1.87 metres (6 feet). Only once since records began in 1923 has the water crept even higher, reaching 1.94 metres in 1966. 

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has estimated the damage at hundreds of millions of euros. Tuesday's "acqua alta", or high waters, submerged around 80 percent of the city, officials said. 

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Screen grab France 24

As authorities prepared to assess the extent of the damage to Venice's cultural treasures – including St Mark's Basilica, where water invaded the crypt – locals remained defiant. 

"It's my living, what can I do?" Stefano Gabbanoto, 54, replied when asked why he was opening his newspaper kiosk knowing he would have to close up soon. 

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Screen grab France 24

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was set to meet Venice's mayor and emergency responders before visiting businesses affected by the tide. Several museums remain closed to the public.

 

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Screen grab France 24

Venice is home to a mere 50,000 residents but receives 36 million global visitors each year. A 78-year-old was killed by an electric shock inside his home.

A massive infrastructure project called MOSE has been under way since 2003 to protect the city, but it has been plagued by cost overruns, corruption scandals and delays.

The plan involves 78 gates that can be raised to protect Venice's lagoon during high tides – but a recent attempt to test part of the barrier caused worrying vibrations and engineers discovered parts had already rusted.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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