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Italy on the move to help floods-hit Venice

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-11-19 09:19
A man carries a woman on his back through the flooded St. Mark's Square during a period of seasonal high water in Venice, Italy, November 14, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

ROME - The northern Italian city of Venice is entering its second week being battered by the worst floods which have never been seen over the past more than 50 years, as the whole country is on the move to help the lagoon city.

According to local media, the Italian government maintains special emergency funds for parts of the country struck by natural disasters, and the current situation in Venice -- which last week saw the highest water levels since 1966, followed by repeated near-record high tides stretching into this week -- is no different.

The government's program includes suspending mortgage payments for city residents for up to a year and providing up to 5,000 euros ($5,500) for individuals and 20,000 euros for commercial establishments to help offset the expense of cleaning up after the floods. Different tax payments have been deferred for residents and businesses in the city. And once the water recedes, more funds will be available for repairing and strengthening public areas, local media reported.

The public can donate 2 euros to relief efforts by calling or texting 45500.

In the region of Tuscany, central Italy, where flooding has also been reported in recent days, chefs have begun donating 5 euros for every plate of codfish sold. A special "grocery boat" loaded with pasta, sausages, and over-the-counter drugs set off on Saturday for Pellestrina, one of the most remote islands in the Venice lagoon.

The European Commission will also earmark funding for disaster relief, once the damage can be assessed.

"All of these various programs are helpful and meaningful," Stefano Enzo, director of the Venice chapter of Caritas, a disaster relief and development organization, told Xinhua. "Every little bit of help is welcome. But it's also meaningful because it tells the residents of Venice they are not forgotten. It tells them their fellow Italians are behind them, supporting them."

Despite the generosity of the state and the public, experts say it will fall far short of the hundreds of millions euros damage estimated by the Italian media.

"This flood has struck at the heart of the city and it will take money and hard work to bring the city back," Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro told journalists.

Brugnaro has also launched his own fundraiser via social media, calling on individuals around the world to help fund the city's efforts.

"Venice is the pride of all Italy and it is the heritage of everyone, unique in the world," Brugnaro's post read. "With your help, it will shine again."

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