Venice is “on its knees” this week as the city is experiencing the worst flooding in more than 50 years and the second-worst ever recorded, according to statements from Mayor Luigi Brugnaro.
The floods have left hundreds of millions of euros in damage to the city, flooding St. Mark’s Square, filling the crypt beneath St. Mark’s Basilica, and forcing local business owners to close up shop and do what they can to protect property along the canals.
"The Basilica is suffering structural damage because the water has risen and so it's causing irreparable damage," said Venice Archbishop Francesco Moraglia, warning that ancient mosaics and tiling might have been badly degraded.
According to the Associated Press, tourists were seen floating suitcases through St. Mark’s Square, one of the lowest parts of the city, this week as officials closed walkways to prevent them from drifting off. When the tides were at their highest, according to the BBC, more than 80% of the city was underwater.
Mayor Luigi Brugnaro declared a state of emergency in the city on Wednesday, closing schools in Venice and the surrounding islands including Pellestrina, one of the islands most affected by the rising tide.
He tweeted this week that the floods would cause a wound “that leaves indelible marks” on the city. Brugnaro also blamed climate change for the high tide that caused the floods and called for the long-delayed barrier system, called the Mose project, which the city had been building to be completed.
“The boundary wall is an integral part of the Most,” Brugnaro wrote in a translated Tweet. “Action must be taken immediately.”
According to Brugnaro, the Italian government is allocating funds and resources to Venice and the Mayor is expected to announce more emergency procedures on Thursday.