Venice Closes St. Mark’s Square Due to Floods

City workers build a trestle bridge in St. Mark’s Square in Venice on Friday. (AP photo/Luca Bruno)

VENICE, Italy (AP) — Exceptionally high tides returned to Venice on Friday, prompting the mayor to close St. Mark’s Square and call for donations to repair the Italian lagoon city just three days after it suffered its worst flooding in 50 years.

The high tide peaked at 5 feet above sea level just before noon Friday, flooding most of the historic center.

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said he was forced to ask police to block off St. Mark’s Square, which was covered in knee-high water. As the water started to subside, workers in high boots began removing platforms used by the public to cross the square without getting wet.

The city saw the second-worst flooding on record late Tuesday when the water level reached 6 feet, 1 inch above sea level, prompting the Italian government to declare a state of emergency.

On Thursday, the government also approved 20 million euros in funding to help Venice repair the most urgent damage.

St. Mark’s Square looking to the sea, in Venice on Friday. (AP photo/Luca Bruno)

Venice’s mayor said the damage is estimated at hundreds of millions of euros and blamed climate change for the “dramatic situation” in the historic city. He called for speedy completion of the city’s long-delayed Moses flood defense project.

He also called for donations from Italy and abroad to help repair the damage caused by the flooding.

“Venice is the pride of all of Italy,” Brugnaro said in a statement Friday. “Venice is everyone’s heritage, unique in the world. Thanks to your help, Venice will shine again.”

The leader of the right-wing opposition League party, Matteo Salvini, visited Venice on Friday morning and also called for a common effort to complete the Moses project, which the Italian government expects to be completed by 2021.

“We can’t waste time, this city is crying for help,” Salvini said.

Tuesday’s devastating floods have reignited a years-long debate on Moses, a multibillion-euro flood defense project that has been under construction since 2003. The project has not been activated, after being delayed a number of times due to corruption scandals, cost overruns and environmentalist opposition to its effects on Venice’s lagoon ecosystem.

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