Published: Sat, November 16, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Conte visits Venice and Italy declares state of emergency - Italianmedia

Conte visits Venice and Italy declares state of emergency - Italianmedia

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte portrayed the flooding as "a blow to the heart of our country".

"This will make it possible to assign the first financial aid to pay for the emergency spending and restore services", Conte said earlier in the day after a meeting in the city with Mayor Luigi Brugnaro, Veneto Governor Luca Zaia and Infrastructure Minister Paola De Micheli.

Only once since records began in 1923 has the water crept even higher, reaching 1.94 metres in 1966.

The council is located on Venice's Grand Canal, which has experienced severe flooding - the worst the city has seen in 50 years.

Called aqua alta, or high water, Venice's tides happen annually in November and December, when seasonal winds drive strong high tides up canals.

The sea level around Venice has been rising steadily for decades, a phenomenon which has been accelerated by climate change.

The historic Italian city has been brought to its knees this week by the worst flooding there in more than 50 years.

Venice's mayor, who has blamed the floods on climate change, said the damage is estimated at "hundreds of millions of euros".

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has also arrived for a private tour of the damage sustained to the basilica, while the rival leader of the Italian right Matteo Salvini was due to drop by for the same on Friday.

Tuesday's "acqua alta", or high waters, submerged around 80 percent of the city, officials said. A resident was electrocuted as he tried to start a pump in his home and a second person was found dead elsewhere on the island.

"The Culture Ministry is sending experts to the magnificent St. Mark's Basilica - built more than a thousand years ago - to assess the state of its marble pillars, frescoes and mosaic pavement", NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome.

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The flooding has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to a jewel of a city so precious that it has always been designated an official World Heritage Site.

Many sites remained closed to tourists Thursday, and La Fenice cancelled all concerts for the evening.

Tourists floated suitcases through St. Mark's Square, where officials removed walkways to prevent them from drifting away.

Local business owners remained defiant in the face of the flooding.

The water was so high that nothing less than thigh-high boots afforded protection. Picture: Getty A man walks past a cafe across a flooded arcade by St. Mark's Square.

A dock, partially flooded, lies damaged in Venice on Wednesday.

Many, including Venice's mayor, have blamed the disaster on global warming and warned that Italy - a country prone to natural disasters - must wake up to the risks posed by ever more volatile seasons.

People wade through water in a flooded St. Mark's Square in Venice.

"We are not just talking about calculating the damages, but of the very future of the city, " Brugnaro told reporters, speaking of "untold damages to houses, shops, activities, not to mention monuments and works of art".

The damages included five ferries that serve as water buses, a critical means of transportation. Videos on social media showed deep water flowing near one of the city's main thoroughfares, and next to the palace, large waves surged over the stone sidewalks hammering boats that had been moored outside.

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