MILAN (AP) — The mayor of Venice blamed climate change for flooding of the canal city that hit the second-highest levels ever recorded, as the city braced for yet another wave on Wednesday.
The high-water mark hit 74 inches late Tuesday, meaning more than 85% of the city was flooded. The highest level ever recorded was 76 inches during the city’s worst-ever flooding in 1966.
One person, a man in his 70s, died on the barrier island of Pellestrina, apparently of electrocution, said Danny Carrella, an official on the island of 3,500 inhabitants. He said the situation there was dramatic, with a meter of water still present due to broken pumps.
Photos on social media showed a city ferry, taxi boats and gondolas grounded on walkways by canals. Already Tuesday, much of the city was under water, inundating the famed St. Mark’s Basilica and raising anew concerns over damage to the mosaics and other artworks.
Officials projected a second wave as high as 63 inches at midmorning Wednesday.
Mayor Luigi Brugnaro blamed climate change for the “dramatic situation” and called for speedy completion of a long-delayed project to construct offshore barriers.
Called “Moses,” the moveable under-sea barriers are meant to limit flooding of the city, caused by southerly winds that push the tides into Venice. But the controversial project opposed by environmentalists concerned about damaging the delicate lagoon ecosystem has been delayed by cost overruns and corruption scandals, with no completion date in site.
Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, told SkyTG24 that the barriers were almost complete, but it was not clear if they would work against such flooding.
“Despite 5 billion euros underwater, St. Mark’s Square certainly wouldn’t be secure,” Zaia said, referring to one of Venice’s lowest points, which floods when there is an inundation of 31.5 inches.
Brugnaro said that the flood levels are “a wound that will leave indelible signs.”