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In pictures: Sirens wail anew in Venice as damaging high waters return

Flavio Lo Scalzo, REUTERS | Men have a glass of wine on a flooded street in Venice, Italy, on November 15, 2019.

Exceptionally high tidal waters returned to Venice on Friday, prompting the Italian lagoon city’s mayor to close the iconic St. Mark’s Square three days after the worst flooding in 50 years.

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Sirens wailed across Venice from the early morning hours on Friday, warning of the impending high tide, and the crypt beneath St. Mark’s Basilica was swiftly inundated.

Local authorities said the high tide ultimately peaked at 1.54m above sea level just before noon, slightly below expectations and significantly lower than the 1.87m level reached on Tuesday – the second highest tide ever recorded in Venice – but the fresh surge was still enough to leave 70 percent of the city under water.

A man observes the flooded St. Mark's Square as high tide reaches its peak in Venice, Italy, on November 15, 2019.
A man observes the flooded St. Mark's Square as high tide reaches its peak in Venice, Italy, on November 15, 2019. Flavio Lo Scalzo, Reuters

 

The Italian government declared a state of emergency for Venice on Thursday, allocating €20 million to address the most urgent damage immediately.

Residents whose houses had been hit would immediately get up to €5,000 in government aid, while restaurant and shop owners could receive up to €20,000 and apply for more at a later date, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Thursday.

A woman looks out from a shop upon the flooded St. Mark's Square at hight tide in Venice on November 15, 2019.
A woman looks out from a shop upon the flooded St. Mark's Square at hight tide in Venice on November 15, 2019. Flavio Lo Scalzo, Reuters

 

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro predicted on Friday that the costs would be vastly higher. “Venice was destroyed the other day. We are talking about damage totalling a billion euros,” Brugnaro said in a video posted on Twitter. “This is a state of emergency, but we are managing it.”

A boat attempts to pass under a bridge amid Venice flooding on November 15, 2019.
A boat attempts to pass under a bridge amid Venice flooding on November 15, 2019. Manuel Silvestri, Reuters

 

The mayor has blamed climate change for the “dramatic situation” in the historic city and the ever-increasing flood waters it has had to deal with in recent years. Venice’s mean sea level is estimated to be more than 20 centimetres higher than it was a century ago and set to increase markedly.

Brugnaro called for the speedy completion of the city’s long-delayed Moses flood defence project, a barrier not expected to start working until the end of 2021.

A young man pushes a wheelbarrow along an inundated Venice street on November 15, 2019.
A young man pushes a wheelbarrow along an inundated Venice street on November 15, 2019. Flavio Lo Scalzo, Reuters

 

The mayor also called for donations from Italy and abroad to help repair the current flood damage, even tweeting the municipality’s bank transfer details in his bid for funds.

“Venice is the pride of all of Italy,” Brugnaro said Friday. “Venice is everyone’s heritage, unique in the world. Thanks to your help, Venice will shine again.”

Women tread along a makeshift walkway over a St. Mark's Square underwater in Venice on November 15, 2019.
Women tread along a makeshift walkway over a St. Mark's Square underwater in Venice on November 15, 2019. Flavio Lo Scalzo, Reuters

 

More than 50 churches have reported damage from the tides, Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said as he inspected the city on Friday. Carabinieri officers from the corps’ world-renowned and highly trained squad of art experts were being deployed to map damage to artistic treasures.

“While the water is still there, it’s difficult to know what the [full] damage is,” Franceschini said.

An older man carries a suitcase in flooded Venice on November 15, 2019.
An older man carries a suitcase in flooded Venice on November 15, 2019. Flavio Lo Scalzo, Reuters

 

Forecasters have predicted tides up to 1.20m for the coming weekend. In normal conditions, tides of 80 to 90cm are generally seen as high but manageable.

With the eyes of the world on their swamped city, locals remain defiant. Many stopped for their usual coffees at flooded bars, drinking espresso while standing in several inches of water.

People slosh through floodwater in a Venice street on November 15, 2019.
People slosh through floodwater in a Venice street on November 15, 2019. Manuel Silvestri, Reuters

 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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