Luigi Costantini/AP

Venice Copes With Heavy Flooding

December 01, 2008 01:21 PM
by Anne Szustek
The Italian city of canals is pumping itself out as it deals with the worst flooding it has seen in more than two decades.
Heavy winds caused Venice’s world-renowned canals to breach their banks on Monday morning, leaving parts of the city under as much as 1.56 meters (5 feet, 2 inches) of water. Waters quickly receded due to shifting winds; however the city’s residents and tourists are left to deal with the flood’s rank aftermath.

City officials sounded sirens and announcements via loudspeakers warning Venetians and visitors not to leave their homes or lodging. Venice Mayor Massimo Cacciari told prospective tourists to rethink plans to visit the city.

The famed Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark’s Place, was under some one meter of water. Raised wooden walkways were constructed around the city; however photographs showed tourists and residents slogging through water as deep as their waists.

“The residents who live on the ground floor are pumping out the water from their houses with buckets,” Venice resident Hanna McShane. “The water is highly polluted and is beginning to smell, as well as leaving behind rubbish of all kinds on the street as the water levels decrease.”

Venice has an annual average of 200 days of flooding, but the city has not seen waters at these levels since 1986, when canals crested at 1.58 meters. Other severe floods occurred in 1979, when waters reached 1.66 meters as well as in 1966, when waters got as high as 1.94 meters, rendering 5,000 people homeless.

To mitigate flooding, city officials are working to have an underwater dam completed by 2011.

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