The historic city of Venice has been flooded by the second-highest tide recorded in the city's history, with Mayor Brugnaro vowing to declare a state of emergency as authorities struggle to limit the damage.
The Tuesday tide peaked at 187cm (6.14 ft) at 10.50 pm local time, just shy of the all-time record 194cm set in 1966. Mayor Luigi Brugnaro warned of severe damage that “is going to leave an indelible wound” on Venice, after a 187cm high tide left more than 85 percent of the city flooded.
“The situation is dramatic,” Brugnaro said on Twitter. “We ask the government to help us. The cost will be high. This is the result of climate change.”
The comments were echoed by the governor or the region, Luca Zaia, who said that Venice is facing "apocalyptic” flooding.
“We faced a total and apocalyptic flood, I will not exaggerate in words, but 80% of the city is under water. Unimaginable and awesome damage has been done,” he said.
Eyewitness footage showed the stunning extent of the flooding, with people being forced to swim for their lives in certain parts of the city.
Saint Mark's Square was submerged under more than three feet of water, while the historic Basilica flooded for just the sixth time in over a millennium. The site has flooded four times in the last 20 years, the last of which was in October 2018.
There have been no immediate reports of damage inside the church, though after last year's floods, the church administrator said the building had aged 20 years in a single day.
Italy has been lashed by torrential downpours in recent days, leading to widespread flooding. More bad weather is forecast for the coming days.
A 78-year old local was reportedly killed by electric shock as water poured into his home. Meanwhile, the coast guard ran extra boats, which served as emergency ambulances to help alleviate the pressure on existing services.
The city's water taxis had to help people climb through windows to reach their hotels, since the gangways along the Grand Canal had been washed away.
A massive infrastructure project to build a series of 78 floating gates to defend the city during such high tides has been plagued by cost overruns and delays.
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