Venice, Nov 16 (AFP/APP): Another exceptional high tide swamped flood-hit Venice on Friday, prompting the mayor to order St Mark’s square closed after Italy declared a state of emergency for the UNESCO city.
Mayor Luigi Brugnaro moved to shut the iconic square as the latest sea surge struck with strong storms and winds battering the region.
It reached a high of 1.54 metres (five feet) just before midday — lower than Tuesday’s peak but still dangerous.
“I’m forced to close the square to avoid health risks for citizens… a disaster,” Brugnaro said.
In the afternoon the square reopened as water levels receded and forecasts anticipated lower levels in coming days.
Churches, shops and homes in the city of canals have been inundated by unusually intense “acqua alta”, or high water, which on Tuesday hit their highest level in half a century.
“We’ve destroyed Venice, we’re talking about one billion (euros) in damage and that’s just from the other day, not today,” Brugnaro said, as far-right leader Matteo Salvini joined the list of politicians to visit the stricken city.
The crisis, driven by bad weather, has prompted the government to release 20 million euros ($22 million) in funds to tackle the devastation.
The weather has not yet subsided and authorities issued a “red alert” for the Venice region on Saturday warning of high winds.
“It’s shocking to see this, having water up to your knees,” Mexican tourist Oscar Calzada, 19, told AFP Friday.
“You have to be here to believe it and hopefully it won’t happen again, it’ll only be once-in-a-lifetime type thing.”
Surveying the damage, Culture Minister Dario Franceschini warned the task of repairing the city would be huge. More than 50 churches had suffered damage, he said.
“Seeing these places first-hand gives the sense of a much greater disaster than TV images show,” Franceschini said.