Venice suffered its second-highest tide on record, threatening its fragile lagoon and Renaissance buildings, as mayor Luigi Brugnaro reportedly declared a state of emergency and said climate change is menacing the historic maritime city.
City officials said the tide peaked at 187 cm (6ft 2ins) at 10.50 p.m. (2150 GMT) on Tuesday, just short of the record 194 cm set in 1966.
Pedestrians walk on a footbridge across the flooded Riva degli Schiavoni embankment after an exceptional overnight "Alta Acqua" high tide water level, early on November 13, 2019 in Venice. Tourists with ground floor rooms had to be evacuated to higher floors as the waters rose Tuesday night, the association director Claudio Scarpa told ANSA.
"If Mose had been working, then we would have avoided this exceptional high tide", Brugnaro said.
As authorities on Thursday prepared to assess the extent of the damage to Venice's cultural treasures, such as St Mark's Basilica where water had invaded the crypt, locals remained defiant. But the project, known as Mose, has been plagued by the sort of problems that have come to characterize many major Italian construction programs - corruption, cost overruns and prolonged delays.
The Venice mayor and Italy's environment minister Sergio Costa both blame climate change for the city's devastating floods.
Across the Adriatic Sea, heavy storm and sweeping winds also caused floods in towns in Croatia and Slovenia.
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St. Mark's Square, one of the city's most iconic attractions, was submerged by more than three feet of water, and St. Mark's Basilica flooded for the sixth time.
The famous St Mark's Basilica has also been flooded, 6th time in the past 1200 years. Brugnaro stated on Twitter that the flooding is "a wound that will leave indelible signs" and urged the government to help.
Last night saw the highest tide in more than 50 years, peaking at 1.87 metres.
The damage in Venice comes in the wake of a week of extreme weather throughout the country.
"Despite 5 billion euros under water, St. Mark's Square certainly wouldn't be secure", Zaia said, referring to one of Venice's lowest points, which floods when there is an inundation of 80 centimetres (31.5 inches).
"We're now facing an exceptionally high tide".
In a surreal scene, Italian TV showed a person swimming in St. Mark's square last night as well as other freakish images of water gushing out of toilets and electrical sockets in homes.
Church staff cleared water and mopped the floors of the flooded basilica November 13 to avoid repeating the damage caused last year when part of the almost 1,000 year old marble floor of the basilica was left under flood water for 16 hours.