1.87 metres of high tide comes close to 1966 record of 1.94 metres.

VENICE : Much of the Venice was underwater last Wednesday after the highest tide in 50 years ripped through the historic Italian city, beaching gondolas, trashing hotels and sending tourists fleeing through rapidly rising waters.

Officials blamed climate change while shopkeepers on the Global Canal raged against those who have failed to protect the Unesco city from the high tide.

They said had corruption had repeatedly delayed a barrier protection system which could have prevented the disaster.

''The city is on its knees,'' Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro said in an interview with national broadcaster RAI.

''There's widespread devastation.'' he said in the famed St. Mark's Square, which bore the brunt of flooding.
''In all likelihood the damage from last nights runs into hundreds of millions of euros [dollars]''.

Tourists lugging heavy suitcases waded in thigh-high galoshes of barefoot through the submerged alleys, as water taxi and gondola drivers baled sewage-tainted water out of their trashed vessels.

A 78-year old was killed by electric shock as the waters poured in his home.

''We ask the government to help us, the costs will be high,'' Brugnaro tweeted. ''These are the effects of climate change.'' Environment Minister Segio Costa blamed climate change and the ''tropicalisation'' of violent rainfall and strong winds.

''This is what is happening more and more often in the Mediterranean,'' Costa said on Facebook, referring to ''Global warming will destroy our planet if we do not immediately reverse the direction.''

The exceptionally intense ''acqua alta,'' or high waters, peaked at 1.87 metres [six feet] . Only once since records began in 1923 has the water crept even higher, reaching 1.94 metres in 1966.''

It was unbelievable, the water rose so quickly,'' said resident Taziano Collarin, 59, as he surveyed the damage.

''Windows have been blown out, there are those who have lost everything,'' he said as the flood alarm rang out to warn those in the canal city that the tide, which had receded somewhat overnight, was coming in once again.

The fire brigade said it had carried out over 400 operations as well as laying on extras boats as water ambulances.

''It was apocalyptic, enough to give you goosebumps.'' said Marine Vector, as she and her husband used buckets to scoop water out of the their shop selling Venetian festival masks. ''The storm was so bad it broke the marble flood barrier out front.

''Nothing survived,'' she said. [AFP]


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