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Venice flooding damage could cost $1.1 billion

China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-11-18 10:14
A man stands by the entrance of a restaurat during a period of seasonal high water in Venice, Italy, Nov 17, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Italian city remains on edge due to high tidal waters over the weekend

VENICE, Italy - Tourists and residents were allowed back into St. Mark's Square in Venice on Saturday, a day after it was closed due to exceptionally high tidal waters that swept through most of the lagoon city's already devastated center.

Despite sunny skies, the city remained on edge due to more wind-propelled high tidal waters over the weekend. The city was struck last Tuesday by the worst floods in decades.

Water rose up again in St. Mark's Square on Saturday and the forecast for Sunday was worse. The tide peaked at 1.1 meters above sea level on Saturday at noon, leaving St. Mark's inundated once again in more than 20 centimeters of water.

The tide could reach 1.6 meters just after midday on Sunday, according to Venice's center for forecast on tides.

"It will be a tough day tomorrow, but we are ready," Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said on Saturday during a news conference.

Late on Nov 12, water levels in Venice reached 1.87 meters above sea level, the highest flooding since 1966. The forecast for Sunday was for the high-water mark to reach 1.6 meters above sea level.

On Saturday, tourists sloshed through St. Mark's Square and strolled across it on raised walkways. Many snapped photos of themselves standing in shallow water in front of St. Mark's Square to document their presence during this exceptional season. Museums filled up again with tourists and the city's gondolas were back in business. But the city's museums were expected to shut down on Sunday due to the threat of high water.

Brugnaro estimated damages from the flooding would reach at least 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion). He said a final tally of the damage to homes, businesses, stores and the city's rich cultural heritage would be done once the city dries out, according to Italian media.

"Venice is once again being watched by the world and it needs to show that it can succeed and pick itself back up," the mayor said in an interview with the Gazzettino and Messaggero newspapers.

Brugnaro said Venice was setting up programs to help cover damages sustained by individuals and businesses, noting that families could expect up to 5,000 euros each and businesses up to 20,000 euros in aid. He said businesses and individuals suffering even more serious losses could possibly qualify for aid covering up to 70 percent of damages.

Among those recovering from Tuesday's devastating high waters was Sabrina Laggia and her husband. She was blowing dry stone jewelry made by her husband, Alfredo, in their workshop near St. Mark's Square. She was dreading forecasts for more high water on Sunday.

"We have been here 30 years and we have never seen anything like this,'' she said. "Lots of acqua alta, but never this high." "Acqua alta" ("high water") is the term Venetians use to describe flooding from wind-driven high tides.

The couple lost an air conditioner and a small soldering gun in the store and a washing machine at their nearby home.

On Thursday, the government declared a state of emergency, approving 20 million euros to help Venice repair the most urgent damage.

The flooding has left Italians exasperated that the city's long-delayed Moses flood defense project is still incomplete. Moses consists of a series of movable barriers in the lagoon that can be raised when high winds and high tides combine to threaten to send"acqua alta" rushing across the city.

Completion of the multibillion-euro project, under construction since 2003, has been delayed by corruption scandals, cost overruns and opposition from environmentalists worried about its effects on Venice's delicate lagoon ecosystem.

"They need to finish the Moses tomorrow,'' said Sabrina Laggia. "Not next year."


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