Heavy rain in Italy; Venice closes St Mark’s Square as floods hit

Heavy rain in Italy; Venice closes St Mark’s Square as floods hit

Agency News

The major public square of Venice, St Mark’s Square, has been closed as the city suffered a major flooding, while rain lashed the rest of Italy.

This is the third major flooding due to high-tide in a period of one week. Weather warnings were also issued in Florence and Pisa apart from Venice, which is worst-affected this time due to the high-tide which brought sea water to a devastating level.

Venice was hit with dangerous high level of water which comes around 150cm (5ft high) on Sunday. But this is little lower than Tuesday’s 187cm but still considered as dangerous.

Mayor of Venice city, Luigi Brugnaro, has estimated damage so far from the invading salt water at more than €1bn. “St Mark’s Square is closed. Safety first,” he said as the sea water began to swamp the already devastated historic city where authorities have declared a state of emergency.

Emergency workers removed temporary walkways from St Mark’s Square as the water started to rise on Sunday, with only police and soldiers visible at about midday.

The major tourist site had already been shut for several hours on Friday as strong storms and winds battered the region, leaving it submerged by sea surges.

Churches, shops and homes have also been inundated in the city, a Unesco world heritage site.

With four tides above 140cm since Monday, this is the worst week for high tides in Venice since 1872 when official statistics were first produced.

Italian media showed paratroopers helping to bolster river defences in Pisa, with authorities monitoring the same river in Florence after heavy rain made it rise dramatically overnight.

Arno flooding devastated Renaissance jewel Florence in 1966, killing about 100 people and destroying thousands of priceless works of art. Civil protection units in Florence advised citizens not to stand near the Arno’s river banks. The exceptionally high tides in Venice came after a brief respite on Saturday.

The crisis has prompted the government to release €20m (£17m) in funds to tackle the devastation. The culture minister, Dario Franceschini, has warned the task of repairing the city, where more than 50 churches have suffered damage, will be huge.

Residents whose houses have been hit are eligible for up to €5,000 in immediate government aid, while restaurant and shop owners can receive up to €20,000. Most of the city’s cash machines were no longer working because of the water, making life even more difficult for tourists and Venetians.