After “apocalyptic” flooding brought the city of Venice “to its knees” on Wednesday, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared a state emergency, giving Venice access to millions in disaster recovery money to help repair the damage from what appears to be the second-worst round of flooding in 50 years.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared a state of emergency for the city of Venice late Thursday due to exceptionally high tides – rising to 71 inches above their benchmark on Wednesday, the highest in half a century. On Friday morning they were 61 inches above normal, according to Bloomberg.
At one point, a classic Banksy mural of a refugee in a life jacket became almost halfway covered by floodwaters.
As the flooding worsened, Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro blamed the flooding on climate change, while some pointed to political failures and corruption.
According to local data initially reported by Italy’s ANSA newswire, Venice suffered its second exceptionally high tide in a week on Friday, with waters rising 154 centimeters – or 61 inches – above their benchmark.
The historic city, which was constructed on a network of canals between hundreds of small islands in the Adriatic sea, was still reeling from the 187-centimeter tide it recorded on Wednesday, the highest in half a century.
Bracing for Friday’s tide, Brugnaro closed St. Mark’s Square after the 11th century basilica there flooded. The city’s water buses, known as vaporetti, were suspended because of the rising tide, and schools were also closed. He has blamed the floods on climate change, while Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio has raised the issue of political corruption as a factor in the flooding.
“Venice is the victim of climate change and corruption,” Italy’s Foreign Affairs Minister Luigi Di Maio said Thursday in Washington, according to Ansa. “I don’t know which is worse, but Venice is suffering from both.”
Though waters have been rising in Venice in recent years, flooding of this magnitude is rare, and typically only happens once a decade.
The chart below should illustrate just how rare this is. Instances of water rising more than 150 centimeters above the benchmark are rare and usually occur about once in a decade, not twice within a week.
Early Wednesday, about 50% of the city had been reported flooded by the unusual tide, and some reports into overnight Wednesday say the city was as much as 85% under water.
Di Maio also spoke about the mobile dams which are currently under construction to protect the Venice lagoon from these rising tides. The project is called MOSE, and it’s already well over its budget of 5.5 billion euros and counting, it’s believed that the devices won’t be ready until at least 2022 (if Venice isn’t entirely underwater before then).
The project, which has been plagued by technical failures, is now under investigation by the Judiciary.