High waters peaked at 1. 87 meters as the flood alarm sounded across the Italian city of canals
Venice was hit by the highest tide in more than 50 years, with tourists wading through flooded streets to seek shelter as a fierce wind whipped up waves in St Mark’s Square.
The exceptionally intense “acqua alta,” or high waters, peaked at 1. 87 meters (six feet) as the flood alarm sounded across the Italian city of canals, the tide monitoring center said.
“We’re currently facing an exceptionally high tide. Everyone has been mobilized to cope with the emergency, ”Venice’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, tweeted.
Only once since records began in 1923 has the water crept higher, reaching 1. meters in 1966.
As emergency services surveyed the damage, Italian media reported that a 78 – year- old local had been killed by electric shock as the waters poured into his home.
The coastguard laid on extra boats to serve as water ambulances.
Tables and chairs set out for aperitifs bobbed along alleyways in the dark, as locals and tourists alike waved aloft inside-out umbrellas, the water slopping over the top of even the highest waders and wellies.
Water taxis attempting to drop people off at the historic hotels along the Grand Canal discovered the gangways had been washed away, and had to help passengers clamber through windows.
“It will be a long night,” Brugnaro tweeted, saying that as the water level began to drop again “the fears of a few hours ago are now being replaced by an assessment of the damage done”.
He said he would declare a state of disaster for the city.
The exceptional flood, which he blamed on the climate crisis, was “a wound that will leave a permanent mark”.
At the sumptuous Gritti Palace, which has played host to royals and celebrities over the decades, including Ernest Hemingway, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the bar was largely underwater. Rich tapestries were piled on to tables, while the waters lapped around velvet sofas and leather-bound books.
A couple of French tourists caught out said they had “effectively swum” after some of the wooden platforms placed around the city in areas prone to flooding overturned.
Since 2003, a massive infrastructure project has been under way to protect the city, but it has been plagued by cost overruns , scandals and delays.
St Mark’s Square is particularly affected by the high tides, as it is located in one of the lowest parts of the city.