Venice floods: Italy declares state of emergency after ‘widespread devastation’ in city


Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte described the flooding as a “blow to the heart of our country”, and vowed to allocate the first round of funds and accelerate the “structural solution to the problems”, which are expected to cost hundreds of millions of euros. He will make the move in a Cabinet meeting today as part of an urgent response to respond to the near-record floods. In a post on Facebook, Mr Conte said: “The disaster that hit Venice is a blow to the heart of our country. It hurts to see the city so damaged, its artistic heritage compromised, and its business activities so severely affected.

“I gave a clear signal to the authorities and local institutions I met this afternoon: the government is there for you. It is with Venice and Venetians.

“Tomorrow I will be in the city again, I will meet the local community and we will have another operational meeting in the Prefecture to see the real damage and to give the first solutions.

“In the afternoon I will return to Rome for a Council of Ministers during which we will take charge of the request for a state of emergency. We are ready to allocate the first funds.

“I will also accelerate the structural solution to the problems, linked to the extraordinary maintenance of the barriers and the hydraulic systems.

Mr Conte added: “But it is not only Venice. In these hours many other regions are affected by this violent wave of bad weather. With the Head of Civil Protection we are constantly monitoring the news from all over Italy.

“From the rest of the Veneto, as from Friuli Venezia Giulia, from Puglia to Trentino Alto Adige, from Naples to Matera and from other territories.

“On the Government’s part, our attention is maximum.”

The flooding has destroyed shops and hotels, leaving many of the city’s historic squares and side streets deep underwater, with the tide peaking at a huge 6ft 2in on Tuesday night – second only to the record 6ft 5in set in 1966.

Mayor of Venice Luigi Brugnaro said the city was “on its knees” and warned of further “widespread devastation”.

He said it would cost hundreds of millions of euros to repair the damage across the city, and told reporters at a news conference the devastation was “enormous”.

The Mayor said on Twitter: “Venice is on its knees. “St. Mark’s Basilica has sustained serious damage, like the entire city and its islands.”

Luca Zaia, the premier of the Veneto region, warned the city was “faced with total, apocalyptic devastation”.

He told Italian media: “I’m not exaggerating – 80 percent of the city is under water, the damage is unimaginable.”

Torrential rainfall has forced tides to peak at near record highs, inflicting huge chaos onto a city built on canals.

Five ferries that serve as water buses were damaged. The are a critical means of transport in Venice as there are no road or rail links, except to the mainland.

But fury has swept across Venice at the delay of a flood barrier project, which has been blamed on corruption.

Mayor Brugnaro demanded a the long-delayed “Moses” barrier protection project “must be finished soon”.

The plan, which began in 2003, involves 78 moveable gates under the sea that can be raised to protect Venice’s lagoon during high tides.

But there is no completion in sight, and a recent attempt to test part of the barrier caused huge vibrations, with engineers discovering parts had rusted.

Local Dino Perzolla said: “They’ve done nothing, neglected it. It doesn’t work and they have stolen six billion euros. The politicians should all be put in jail.”


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