The city of Venice is currently suffering from a flood of historic intensity. The highest tide the city has seen in 50 years has overwhelmed seawalls and destroyed docks, flooding roughly 85% of the famous lagoon city. Strong winds have worsened the impact of flooding. Already, two people have died in connection with the floods; an elderly man was electrocuted as he tried to run electric pumps to remove water from his home, and a second person was found dead elsewhere. Additionally, the floods have caused a tremendous amount of property destruction, as boats floated into the streets and countless homes and other buildings were partially submerged.
According to a statement from Venice’s government, the city was struck by a tide of 187 centimeters, or 73.6 inches, on Tuesday night. This is the worst flood since 1966, when tides of 194 centimeters or 76.4 struck the city. The historic crypt of St. Mark’s Basilica, which has been standing for 1,200 years, flooded for the sixth time in its history. At a news conference, Venice’s mayor, Luigi Brugano, characterized the damage as “enormous,” and said that repairing the city would cost hundreds of millions of euros. He also claimed the flooding was a direct result of climate change, saying, “Now the government must listen… these are the effects of climate change… the costs will be high.” The city’s government will “submit a request for a state of emergency” to the country’s central government, in the hope of securing funds to repair the damage. Schools were closed due to the weather conditions.
Despite the immense level of destruction already, more high water is expected to come in the next several days
People have been seen wading through waist-high water in the streets of Venice, and in some areas the water is high enough to swim in. Tables and chairs from outdoor restaurants floated through the waters, and tourists had to leave through the windows of high-end hotels as six-foot-high water submerged the first floors of these hotels. A few boats used for public transportation in the city sank, and officials worry about the flood’s effect on the integrity of older historic buildings. On Twitter, Mayor Brugano said “Venice is on its knees,” and posted pictures of himself and a religious leader surveying the damage of St. Mark’s Basilica, wading through knee-high water.
Because he is blaming the flood on climate change, the mayor has argued that serious work needs to be done for the future of the city to prepare for future floods. At the news conference, the mayor shared that while wandering through the city, he “found people in tears because they had lost everything,” adding “if we don’t want the city to be abandoned, we have to give certain answers. It’s not just about quantifying the damages, but about the future of this city.” A similar flood transpired last year, leaving many people homeless and destroying personal belongings. The Catholic church has pledged to provide lodging for people left homeless by the flood, giving priority to people who are the most in need.
Despite the immense level of destruction already, more high water is expected to come in the next several days, much to the dismay of the city’s 262 thousand residents, according to the city’s website. Italy’s Prime Minister, Guiseppe Conte, is scheduled to visit the city and spend the night soon. The country has also invested billions of euros in flood-protection technologies, but this technology has yet to be implemented. This flood-protection system, which is scheduled to go online in 2022 and involves offshore underwater dams, may have prevented the disaster if it had been operative. However, flood barriers are just one of the measures necessary for the city to combat climate change, as elements like the navigability of the canals are also involved.