A HIGH tide and strong winds have flooded large parts of the Italian city of Venice.
The lagoon city, famed for its canals and waterways, has seen many of its public squares and walkways submerged.
Officials say as much as 75% of the city is now underwater.
The main tourist centre St Mark’s Square was closed yesterday, with water levels reaching over 5 feet.
The water exceeded the raised walkways normally put out in flooded areas in Venice, forcing their removal. Transport officials closed the water bus system except to outlying islands because of the emergency.
Venice frequently floods when high winds push in water from the lagoon, but Monday’s levels were exceptional. The peak level was the highest since December 2008, according to Venice statistics.
Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said a series of underwater barriers that are being erected in the lagoon would have prevented the inundation. The project, nicknamed Moses, is long overdue, beset by cost overruns and corruption scandals.
Mr Brugnaro said he had asked to talk with premier Giuseppe Conte to underline the urgency of the project, which would raise barriers when the tide reaches 43in. That happens, on average, four times a year in Venice.
Residents and businesses typically reinforce their doors with metal or wooden panels to prevent water from entering the bottom floors, but photos on social media showed shop owners using water pumps to try to protect their wares.
Much of Italy is under alert for flooding from heavy rains, a problem exacerbated by a lack of maintenance of the country’s river beds. High winds toppled trees that killed passers-by in four incidents in Naples, Lazio and Liguria.
Officials closed major tourist attractions in Rome, including the Colosseum and the Forum, early because of heavy rains.
Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia said flooding this week could reach the levels of the 1966 flood that struck Venice and Florence.
The Interior Ministry urged officials in storm-struck regions, about half of the country, to consider closing schools and offices for a second day on Tuesday.