Several Italian cities were on high alert yesterday after heavy rain overnight, including Venice, where residents and tourists were braced for another exceptional high tide.
The city, which suffered its worst flooding in 50 years on Tuesday, was to face a high tide of about 160cm at noon, its third in less than a week, the city’s center for forecasting tides said.
That is lower than Tuesday’s 187cm — the highest level in half a century — but still dangerous.
“Maximum attention for today’s tide,” tweeted Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro, who has estimated damage so far from the invading salt water at more 1 billion euros (US$1.1 billion).
“The safety apparatus has been activated. Thanks to all those who are looking after Venice and intervene when needed,” he said.
Brugnaro on Saturday said he had invited the UN to set up a climate change research center in Venice.
“We want to launch a great global appeal to scientists: Come here, you will find open doors and a city ready to welcome you,” he said.
Authorities in Florence and Pisa were also closely monitoring the Arno River, whose water levels rose rapidly in the night due to heavy rain.
Italy’s longest river, the Po, which runs across northern Italy passing through Turin, was also being monitored after its level rose by one-and-a-half meters in the last 24 hours due to heavy rain
The renewed threat from exceptionally intense high tides in Venice came after a brief respite on Saturday, with visitors on yesterday morning having to walk along improvised gangways on St Mark’s Square as the waters rose yet again.
However, many tourists with suitcases were rushing yesterday to grab the last water taxis to get to the mainland before service was interrupted in anticipation of the high tide.
Members of the Italian football team on Saturday traveled to Venice to show solidarity with the stricken city.
“Venice will overcome this too. Like an athlete who suffers a serious injury and then gets up again,” delegation chief and former Azzurri international Gianluca Vialli said.
The crisis has prompted the Italian government to release 20 million euros in funds to tackle the devastation.
Italian Minister of Culture Minister Dario Franceschini has warned the task of repairing the city, where more than 50 churches have suffered damage, will be huge.
Most of the city’s cash machines were no longer working because of the water, making life even more difficult for tourists and Venetians.
Hotels have reported canceled reservations, some as far ahead as next month, following the widespread diffusion of images of Venice underwater.
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