Story at a glance

  • Venice, Italy, has declared a state of emergency after 6-foot floods submerged the city.
  • Landmarks like Saint Mark’s Basilica are threatened by repetitive water damage.
  • Venice’s mayor blames climate change for the increased frequency and severity of flooding.

On Tuesday night, Venice, Italy, experienced “acqua alta,” an unusually high tide that submerged the popular tourist destination under about six feet of water. The mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, said in a tweet that the city is “on its knees” and has declared a state of emergency, Reuters reports.

Venice is well known for its waterways, but the city’s location in a lagoon puts it at extreme risk as weather in the region becomes more volatile. Communities outside of the major city were also hit by the flooding.

"Venice has been tortured, but there are also other parts of the Veneto region besides Venice. It is an apocalyptic disaster," regional governor Luca Zaia told Reuters.

Venice has struggled with overtourism because of its many historical, architectural, and artistic landmarks. Some, like Saint Mark’s Basilica, have already faced questions about whether they can stand up to repetitive flooding. This is the sixth time that the Basilica has flooded in its 1,200 years, but four of those floods have happened in the last two decades, Reuters reports.

Mayor Brugnaro wrote on Twitter that the severity of the flood is a result of climate change. This week’s flood comes with strong winds that weren’t present during the last 6-foot flood in 1966, CNN reports.

“Acqua alta has always been normal,” Lorenzo Bonometto, an expert on lagoon ecology, told the New York Times. But strong winds in addition to the flooding made Tuesday “an exceptional event,” Bonometto told reporters. One man has already died while trying to manage the flooding of his home.

He said that the intense flooding has also become more frequent in recent years because of rising sea levels. And because Venice is sinking by an inch every five years, sea level rise has that much more impact on the city, the New York Times reported.

The Diocese of Venice and Caritas, a Catholic charity, will offer housing for people who have been made homeless by the flooding.

“I hope the message passes that the city has been wounded,” the patriarch of Venice, Francesco Moraglia, told the New York Times. “It can’t be wounded each year in the same way.”

Published on Nov 13, 2019