Tourists sit in St Mark's Square in Venice earlier this
week as exceptionally high tides brought flooding to the
city. REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri
Over half of Venice is under water after the historic
lagoon city was hit by exceptionally high tides.
Tourists had to put plastic bags over their legs and
residents donned rubber boots as water rose to knee-high
levels in many parts of the city.
Water levels rose above 55 inches into Thursday morning
(local time) and were expected to remain above critical
levels "for about 15 hours," local authorities said.
It was the highest tide level since December 2010.
Venice starts flooding when waters rise about 43 inches. When
the 55-inch mark is reached, 58 percent of the city is under
On Thursday, the famous St Mark's Square was 24 inches under
water. Tide levels were expected to return to more normal
levels on Friday.
Chioggia, a town on the southern edge of the Venice lagoon,
was the worst hit. Tides there reached a peak of 65 inches,
the third-highest level since 1966, when the area was
devastated by a huge flood.
Venice, which is built on hundreds of small islands, often
experiences high water in autumn and winter causing floods to
the city's narrow alleyways and squares, including the famous
To tackle the problem, Italian authorities are building a
complicated dam system, the MOSE, which is meant to insulate
the city from tide levels above 43 inches.
But MOSE has been beset by cost overruns, delays, and
opposition from environmental groups. The project is now
expected to cost more than $US7.8 billion and become fully
operational in 2016.