On Wednesday, the mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, referred to the Italian lagoon city as a disaster zone. The mayor called for a state of emergency and for schools to be shut after the second highest tide ever recorded swept through the area on Tuesday night.
As a result of the “apocalyptic” floods, the city’s historic basilica and other areas were left underwater. Subsequently, Brugnaro blamed the flooding on climate change.
Venice floods: High tides in the Adriatic Sea
“Acqua alta” is the name given to exceptionally high tides in the Adriatic Sea (Venice is situated on the coast of northeastern Italy, bounded by the Adriatic Sea), which this week reached heights of 1.87 metres (well over 6 feet) — only a little short of the 1.91-metre record that was set during the “great flood” of 1966.
The city’s Saint Mark’s Square went under more than a metre of water, whereas the adjacent Saint Mark’s Basilica was flooded for only the sixth time in the last 1,200 years and for the fourth time in the last 20 years.
A 78-year-old man was electrocuted after the tide entered his house.
Late autumn and winter are the season for high tides or acqua alta in Venice. At the end of October last year, over 75% of the lagoon city went under water after high tides and stormy weather led to an increase in the water levels of the canals.
Another significant tide reaching a peak of about 1.25 m was expected to flood some low-lying areas on Thursday. On Wednesday, the tides reached a height of 1.45 m.
A delayed flood barrier system
Since 1991, Venice has been awaiting a multi-billion dollar flood barrier system called MOSE (acronym for Experimental Electromechanical Module) that has been under construction since 2003, and was scheduled to be completed in 2014.
The completion date was moved to 2016, and as per official estimates, the system will be ready to use by 2021. Officials blamed the flooding in large parts of the city on MOSE not being active.
Since 2003, the construction of this flood barrier system has cost about 5.5 billion euros and has been mired in criticism and corruption, The Local reported.
According to La Stampa, it was supposed to cost 1.6 billion euros. The newspaper reported in 2017 that parts of the flood barrier system already constructed were at a risk of corrosion and some MOSE structures are eroding parts of the lagoon bed.
“The entire project has been marked by a serious episode of corruption, sanctioned in a trial which has just ended and which has been shown to be bad in design and even worse in execution,” it said.
An op-ed in Il Manifesto said, “In reality, the changes in the ecosystem and the global climate produce higher and more frequent and powerful tides, so the MOSE, if it were operational, would end up being too used, compromising the lagoon and the port.”