December 2, 2008

Venice Flooded, Highest Levels In Years

A city known for its famous canals is now underwater thanks to heavy rains and high winds that left it almost completely flooded on Monday after nearby sea levels hit their highest mark in 22 years.

The mayor urged people to stay indoors; ferry and water taxi services in the lagoon city were suspended.

Tourists and residents waded across streets and popular sites like St. Mark's Square in thigh-high water, while chairs of outdoor cafes were fully submerged.

More than 99 percent of the city was under water and sea levels in the Adriatic rose 61 inches, the fourth-highest level recorded over the past century.

"These are exceptionally high waters," said Venice's Mayor Massimo Cacciari.
He said, "Don't venture out unless it is necessary."

An expert official overseeing Venice's architectural heritage said the city was reaching its limits and the water was slowly receding at a worrisome rate.

The entire city suffers from periodic flooding caused by high tides because it is built on a collection of marshy islands crisscrossed by canals.

In 1966, a massive high tide swamped the city destroying the homes of 5,000 people.

Italy started a floodgate project aimed at stopping rising sea levels from destroying the city.

On Monday, the infrastructure minister promised 800 million more euros ($10 million USD) which will be designated next year to the 4.13 billion euro ($5.5 billion USD) project.

The project is expected to be completed by 2012 or 2013.