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'Apocalyptic' Venice floods in pictures: Italy to declare state of emergency
14 November 2019, 18:45
Italy is preparing to declare a state of emergency after Venice suffered its worst flooding in half a century.
Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has described the tragedy as "a blow to the heart of our country".
At one point, around 80 per cent of the city was underwater and extreme weather meant that - for only the sixth time in history - the iconic St Mark's Basilica flooded.
Italy's government is set to hold a cabinet meeting on Thursday to take emergency measures to provide extra funds to the city.
Venice's mayor, who has blamed the floods on climate change, said the damage is estimated at "hundreds of millions of euros".
Damage has been inflicted on the city's historic basilica, as well as on shops, homes and hotels, many of which have lost access to power.
“The disaster that struck Venice is a blow to the heart of our country. It hurts to see the city so damaged, its artistic heritage compromised, its commercial activities on their knees,” Giuseppe Conte said.
The effects of the flooding have been described as “apocalyptic devastation” by a governor of the Veneto region, which Venice is situated in.
Several deaths have been reported, although it is yet unclear how many.
An elderly local man from Pellestrina died after being struck by lightning whilst using an electric water pump, the fire brigade said.
Another man's body was reportedly found when concerned relatives entered his home.
The high-water mark hit 1.87 meters (74in) late on Tuesday, meaning more than 85% of the city was flooded.
It is the second-highest level ever recorded in the city, after the highest level recorded was 1.98 meters (78in) in 1966.
The city of Venice is made up of more than 100 islands inside a lagoon off the north-east coast of Italy. It suffers flooding on a yearly basis.
Italy's prime minister said the government would speed up the completion of the so-called Mose system of water defences, though he added that it was not expected to be operational before 2021.
Called Moses, the moveable under-sea barriers are meant to limit flooding of the lagoon city, caused by southerly winds that push the tide into Venice.
Work on the Moses project began back in 2003 and has already cost billions of euros. However it has faced many corruption and bribery allegations.
Venice is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, seeing between 26 million and 30 million visitors per year.
But the high waters, or acqua alta, have caused many tourists to leave the city, and many small business owners are appealing to them to return.
More rain is forecast to hit Venice from Friday into next week, risking further intense flooding.