FLOOD-ravaged Venice has been pounded by a third huge tidal surge in less than a week.
Officials closed historic St. Mark’s Square and stacked sandbags against the Basilica to block salt-laden water from bursting in to the crypt again.
Despite tourist shops and museums shutting their doors around the famous square, tourists donned knee-high rubber boots to wade through the flooded scene – and take plenty of selfies.
Sunday saw the water peak at nearly five feet (150cm), marking the worst week for the city since official tide statistics were produced in 1872.
But as hundreds of voluntary workers helped citizens cope with the emergency, residents living further from St Mark’s Square said they felt abandoned.
Suddenly a big wave burst in to the house and all the electricity went off.
Mario Scarpa, Pellestrina
Sky News reports that those living in Pellestrina island – the thin stretch of land which forms a barrier between the Venetian lagoon and the Adriatic Sea – say they are living in a nightmare.
Vincenzo Vianello, 90, said he feared a repeat of a massive flood in 1966 which swamped the whole island.
He said: “We lost the fridge and kitchen that time, and the same has happened again this time – everything in the house was flooded, we had to throw everything again.”
Fellow resident Mario Scarpa said that in the middle of the night, “suddenly a big wave burst in to the house and all the electricity went off”.
He broke his foot in his desperation to save his kitchen and appliances from the deluge.
In Venice’s tourist centre, many store owners in the swanky area around St. Mark’s emptied their shops.
Others tried to protect their wares by placing them as high as possible and used water pumping machines to clear out their shops.
In one luxury boutique, employees used water vacuums and big squeegee mops to keep the brackish lagoon waters from advancing.
Tides have risen above 140cm several times since Monday, including Tuesday’s high tide of 187cm (6.14ft).
In normal conditions, tides of 80-90 cm are seen as high but manageable.
Venice’s mayor has estimated that the flooding damage will run into hundreds of millions of Euros.
Italian officials have declared a state of emergency for the area.
They say Venice is both sinking into the mud and facing rising sea levels due to climate change.
It doesn’t help that the city’s Moses flood defence project is still not operational despite nearly two decades of construction.
The corruption-riddled underwater barrier system has sucked up at least 5 billion euros of public funding and was supposed to be working by 2011.
Why has Venice been flooding?
St Mark’s Square – Venice’s centrepiece – now floods more than 60 times annually.
This is up from four times a year in 1900.
Some researchers have warned that Venice will disappear by the year 2100, write oceanography experts Carl Amos and Georg Umgiesser in The Conversation.
They say that the increase in flooding is “due to the combined effects of land subsidence, causing the city to sink, and climate change causing the global sea level to rise.”
The city’s solution, Moses, an unfinished scheme of 78 storm gates, “is likely to cause damage to the ecological health of the surrounding lagoon, and could have no effect on Venice’s preservation”.
Venice is built on 118 small islands drained by a network of canals, and located within a tidal lagoon.
Its sea level has risen by a total of 26cm since 1870.
Plus the sea level is still increasing by 2.4mm a year, the experts say, damaging the city’s buildings with salt and damp.
They warn: “As a result, with a sea level rise of 50cm, the storm gates will need to close almost daily to protect the city from flooding.”
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