Venice was hit by the highest tide in more than 50 years late Tuesday, with tourists wading through flooded streets to seek shelter as a fierce wind whipped up waves in St. Mark’s Square.
The exceptionally intense “acqua alta,” or high waters, peaked at 1.87 metres (six feet) as the flood alarm sounded across the Italian city of canals, the tide monitoring centre said.
“We’re currently facing an exceptionally high tide. Everyone has been mobilised to cope with the emergency,” Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro tweeted.
Only once since records began in 1923 has the water crept even higher, reaching 1.94 metres in 1966.
Tables and chairs set out for aperitifs bobbed along alleyways in the dark, as locals and tourists alike waved aloft inside-out umbrellas, the water slopping over the top of even the highest waders and wellies.
Water taxis attempting to drop people off at the glamorous and historic hotels along the Grand Canal discovered the gangways had been washed away, and had to help passengers clamber through windows.
“It will be a long night,” Brugnaro tweeted, saying that as the water level began to drop again “the fears of a few hours ago are now being replaced by an assessment of the damage done”.
The exceptional flood was “a wound that will leave a permanent mark”, he said.