ROME – Around 80% of Venice is underwater in what has been described as “apocalyptic devastation.”
Those were the words of President of Veneto Luca Zaia as Italian authorities scrambled to tackle the worst flooding in the canal city since 1966.
“Venice is on its knees. St. Mark’s Basilica been severely damaged and so has the rest of the city and its islands,” Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro said following one of the most testing nights in the exposed city’s recent history.
The mayor told a press conference that he had met with people in tears “because they had lost everything” and that it was now time for a “historic response” to save one of Italy’s most popular destinations.
The Italian city has experienced its worst flooding in four decades amid an exceptionally high tide.
The phenomenon, known in the popular tourist destination as high waters (acqua alta), saw parts of the city covered by 187 centimeters (73.6 inches) of seawater late Tuesday and buffeted by strong winds.
In 1966, water levels peaked at 194cm.
The city’s warning sirens blared three times overnight and the damage wrought by the high waters was plain to see, although the exact damage to the famous city will be revealed once the flooding has subsided.
Gondolas and boats have been torn from their moorings and three vaporetti, waterbus, had capsized and another was adrift.
At least 60 vessels have been damaged, according to initial reports.
Shops, restaurants, and hotels in the city center have also been completely flooded.
The adverse conditions also claimed the life of a 78-year-old man who was electrocuted when he tried to start a generator at his house on the island of Pellestrina, south of the city.
Venice authorities have called on the central Italian government to declare a regional state of natural disaster and to prepare assistance for damages.
In response, the executive said it would discuss “necessary and urgent intervention to protect citizens” at the next cabinet meeting.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and several ministers have traveled to the city.
All schools in Venice and its islands were closed on Wednesday while areas like St. Mark’s Square were off-limits to tourists.
“It is devastation,” the director of the Venetian Hoteliers Association, Claudio Scarpa, told reporters.
“The damages are enormous and unfortunately it does not look like it is about to stop, the high tide is ongoing.
“The electrical panels at the hotel have tripped and therefore the pumps cannot be used to draw the water.”
Italy’s Civil Protection service said 130 firefighters were deployed to Venice.
Experts have warned that the high waters were expected to continue throughout the week with another peak of 138cm recorded on Wednesday morning.
The fate of St. Mark’s Basilica, which was severely damaged by flooding in October 2018 and was still undergoing restoration, was a major concern for city authorities.
Overnight, the water levels hit 110cm and submerged the crypt of the building.
Once the flooding recedes, conservation teams can evaluate the damage caused by saltwater to valuable mosaics and marble.
Patriarch of Venice Francesco Moraglia said at a press conference he had never seen flooding like that which hit the area overnight.
He added that waves were rolling across St. Mark’s square.
La Fenice opera house was also damaged in the flooding, but its main stage escaped unscathed so far.
The damage could push back the inauguration of the opera season set to start on 24 November.
The Culture Ministry has ordered a crisis unit to protect Venice’s cultural heritage.
As the flooding crept through the city, fresh controversy arose once again about the delay to the flood-defense system currently being constructed where the city meets the Adriatic Sea.
Known as the MOSE project, the mobile levy system designed to protect the Venetian lagoon was due to be finished in 2018 but was pushed back to 2022.
At a cost of more than five billion euros, the system aims to protect the city from high tides up to three meters.
The MOSE project has come under criticism by environmentalist groups and was even the center of a corruption scandal that saw the former mayor and 34 others forced to resign. – EFE-EPA / Cristina Cabrejas
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) assisted in the rescue of 50 residents in El Nido, Palawan amid flooding.
Barangay Manlag, El Nido, Palawan was submerged in floodwater, following torrential rainfall that started at around 7:00 p.m. on Thursday (July 15). The PCG rescued a total of 50 residents, including two infants.
PCG District Palawan Commander, Commodore Genito Basilio said he immediately deployed personnel and assets to assist the local government units of El Nido and other concerned government agencies in ensuring the safety of affected residents.
“Despite our pressing mandate and firm commitment to ensure maritime security and maritime safety in the West Philippine Sea and the Kalayaan Island Group, rest assured the PCG District Palawan and Coast Guard vessels under the Task Force Pagsasanay will always be there to render humanitarian assistance to the people of Palawan,” he said.
The PCG also dispatched personnel to assist rescue and evacuation efforts in Barangay Pasadeña, Barangay Barotuan, and Barangay Libertad. It also assisted a motorbanca who experienced engine trouble during the heavy rainfall.
As of July 16, majority of the rescued residents were able to return to their homes after floodwater subsided in El Nido. AAC
UNTV is a major TV broadcast network with 24-hour programming. An Ultra High Frequency station with strong brand content that appeal to everyone, UNTV is one of the most trusted and successful Philippine networks that guarantees wholesome and quality viewing experience.