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Italy Declares Emergency Over Venice Flooding

Italy Declares Emergency Over Venice Flooding

The Italian government declared a state of emergency on Thursday, due to the city of Venice experiencing detrimental flooding.

The city experienced its second-worst flood on record, with high water levels reaching 6ft (1.87m) on Tuesday.

The UNESCO world heritage site saw over 80% of the city underwater when the tides were at their highest.

The flooding was a result of both high spring tides and a meteorological storm surge. The city experienced such strong winds that an empty public water bus ended up grounded.

These weather conditions resulted in churches, shops and homes becoming severely flooded and two people reportedly have died as a result.

The state of emergency was agreed at a cabinet meeting, held by Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, where they agreed on the first measures that would be undertaken to aid the city’s recovery.

Conte said the flooding was a “blow to the heart of our country”, while the mayor of Venice suggested the damage would cost “hundreds of millions of euros” – he also called for the long-delayed off-shore barrier project, known as ‘Moses’, to be completed.

The Italian PM said, before the meeting, that more funding would be made available to ensure the flood barrier project would be promptly completed.

He said: "This will make it possible to assign the first financial aid to pay for the emergency spending and restore services.” The project was designed in 1984 in order to protect Venice from high tide events and work started in 2003, but the project has been controversial causing long delays and no official completion date stated. The barrier has been opposed due to concerns over potential damage being caused to the lagoon eco-system and has been significantly delayed due to cost overruns and corruption scandals.

Compensation has also been made available, with individuals being able to claim up to €5,000 and businesses up to €20,000 in order to help get the city back up and running.

Luigi Brugnaro, the mayor of Venice, blamed climate change for the record flooding event and said the event would leave “a permanent mark”.

BBC meteorologist, Nikki Berry, explained: “While we should try to avoid attributing a single event to climate change, the increased frequency of these exceptional tides is obviously a big concern. In our changing climate, sea levels are rising and a city such as Venice, which is also sinking, is particularly susceptible to such changes.” 

She also detailed: “This latest Acqua Alta (high water) occurrence in Venice is the second highest tide the city has experienced in recorded history. However, if we look at the top 10 tides, five have occurred in the past 20 years and the most recent was only last year.”

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