One of Italy’s most popular travel destinations is under water after it was hit by the highest tide in 50 years.
Flooding in Venice hit the second-highest levels ever recorded in history, and the historic canal city braces for yet another wave on Wednesday.
Venice’s Mayor Luigi Brugnaro blamed climate change for the “dramatic situation” and called for a speedy completion of a long-delayed project to construct off-shore barriers.
“Now the government must listen,” he said on Twitter. “These are the effects of climate change… the costs will be high.”
According to the Sun,exceptionally high tides that produce major flooding occur every four years. However, the city usually experiences minor flooding about four times a year.
Brugnaro also tweeted various photos that showed historic tourist attractions under water such as St. Mark’s Square, which was one of the worst hit areas. Photos surfaced of shopkeepers struggling to minimize the damage as water poured into their stores.
Brugnaro also noted that St. Mark’s Basilica had suffered major damage from the high levels of water, raising new concerns for the mosaics and other artworks. According to the BBC, this is the sixth time the basilica flooded in 1,200 years with four of those times occurring within the past 20 years.
Photos on social media showed a city ferry, taxi boats and gondolas grounded on walkways flanking canals.
The high-water mark hit 74 inches late Tuesday, meaning more than 85 percent of the city was flooded. The highest level ever recorded was 76 inches during infamous flooding in 1966.
Officials projected a second wave as high as 63 inches at midmorning Wednesday.
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 with 3,500 inhabitants. Media outletsreport that a second man was found dead in his home. He said the situation there remained dramatic, with about three feet of water still present due to broken pumps.
The long-delayed off-shore barriers, called “Moses,” were meant to limit flooding of the city, caused by southerly winds that push the tide into Venice. But the controversial project opposed by environmentalists concerned about damaging the delicate lagoon eco-system has been delayed by cost-overruns and corruption scandals, with no completion date in site.
Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, told the Italian news channel SkyTG24 that the barriers were almost complete, but it wasn’t clear if they would work against such flooding.
“Despite 5 billion euros under water, St. Mark’s Square certainly wouldn’t be secure,” Zaia said, referring to one of Venice’s lowest points that floods when there is an inundation of 31.5 inches.
Brugnaro said that the flood levels represent “a wound that will leave indelible signs.”
Contributing: Associated Press. Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.