VENICE has declared a state of emergency after a 1.8-metre flood caused hundreds of millions of pounds worth of damage to the tourist hot spot and killed at least two people.
Shocking images show the historic St Mark’s Basilica under water – as the regional governor described a scene of “apocalyptic devastation” following the worst floods in 50 years.
Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, said: “There’s apocalyptic devastation.
“Venice is on its knees… the art, the basilica, the shops and the homes, a disaster.. The city is bracing itself for the next high tide.”
Saint Mark’s Square was submerged by more than one metre of water, while the adjacent Saint Mark’s Basilica was flooded for only the sixth time in 1,200 years – sparking fears for millions of pounds worth of priceless art.
The floods have also brought misery to tourists and local residents – stranding boats, battering shops and hotels and and leaving many of the city’s squares and alleyways deep underwater.
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The city’s Mayor Luigi Brugnaro blamed climate change for the “dramatic situation” after one man died as a direct result of the flooding.
He claimed the basilica had suffered “grave damage”, but no details were available on the state of its world-famous Byzantine interior.
The building’s administrator said it aged 20 years in a single day when it flooded last year.
The victim, a local man from Pellestrina, was killed after being struck by lightning while using an electric water pump.
The body of another man was reportedly found when concerned relatives entered his home.
Night-time footage showed a torrent of water whipped up by high winds raging through the city centre.
Tables and chairs bobbled along alleyways as locals waded to their hotels.
Transport officials closed the water bus system – except to surrounding islands – because of the emergency.
One posh hotel was forced to stack priceless tapestries on tables after a “waterfall” swamped the bar.
A museum of modern art was evacuated after the floodwater sparked an electrical fire.
And two French tourists were forced to SWIM back to their hotel after a makeshift bridge overturned.
Only once since records began in 1923 has the tide been higher, reaching 1.94m (6ft 5ins) in 1966.
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SOURCE: The Sun, Jacob Dirnhuber