St. Mark's Square in Venice is flooded. Waters are rising in Venice, where the tide is reaching exceptional levels three days after the Italian lagoon city experienced its worst flooding in more than 50 years.
Photo: Luca Bruno/Associated Press
Photo: Luca Bruno/Associated Press

State of emergency in Venice after worst floods in 50 years

Iconic St. Mark’s Square closed | City ‘crying for help,’ leader says

The high tide peaked at 5 feet above sea level just before noon on Friday, flooding most of the historic center.

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro told reporters he was forced to ask police to block off St. Mark’s Square, which was covered in knee-high water. Even as the water started to subside, workers in high boots began removing the platforms used by the public to cross the square without getting wet.

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. 
Photo: Andrea Merola/ANSA via AP

The city saw the second-worst flooding on record late Tuesday when the water level reached 6 feet, 1 inch above sea level, prompting the Italian government to declare a state of emergency.

On Thursday, the government also approved 20 million euros in funding to help Venice repair the most urgent damage.

People use trestle bridges to walk in a flooded St. Mark's Square in Venice.

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

He also called for donations from Italy and abroad to help repair the damage caused by the flooding.

People walk in a flooded St. Mark's Square in Venice on Friday. The high-water mark hit  74 inches.

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

The leader of the right-wing opposition League party, Matteo Salvini, visited Venice on Friday morning and also called for a common effort to complete the Moses project, which the Italian government now expects to be completed by 2021.

Waters are rising in Venice, where the tide is reaching exceptional levels  three days after the Italian lagoon city experienced its worst flooding in more than 50 years.
Photo: Luca Bruno/Associated Press

"We can't waste time, this city is crying for help," Salvini said, adding that similar incidents must be avoided.

Tuesday's devastating floods have reignited a yearslong debate on Moses, a multibillion-euro flood defense 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 environmentalist opposition over its effects on Venice’s lagoon ecosystem.

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