The Mayor of Venice is set to declare a state of disaster as parts of the Italian city are submerged under water following the highest tide in more than 50 years.
Tourists and residents have been wading through through knee-deep water in Venice following a powerful wind and rain storm on Tuesday night. Sirens warned of the rising tide as high waters peaked at 1.87 metres (more than 6 feet) across the canal city. Water submerged most streets and squares and rapidly streamed into cafes, and homes, bringing the city to a virtual halt. St Mark’s Square, one of the city’s lowest points, was one of the worst hit areas.
“We’re currently facing an exceptionally high tide. Everyone has been mobilised to cope with the emergency,” Mayor Luigi Brugnaro tweeted. “We ask the government to help us. The cost will be high. This is the result of climate change.” In a follow-up tweet he called it a “dramatic situation.”
According to officials, only once since records began has the water reached higher than Tuesday’s tidal surge, peaking at 1.94 metres in 1966.
A press conference is scheduled for midday local time on Wednesday, where Burgnaro said he would declare a state of disaster. The Italian coast guard has deployed local boats to serve as water ambulances. And temporary ramps have been laid out for visitors and residents to go about their business without getting too wet.
Venice routinely floods several times a year, but in recent years the phenomenon, known as acqua alta (high water) has worsened. The city is building system of movable barriers to ease the effect of high tides, but the project has been hit by scandals and delays.
Tourists have been advised to exercise caution as further bad weather is expected in the coming days.