Italy to declare state of emergency after flood

VENICE (AFP) – Italy was planning to declare a state of emergency for Venice yesterday after an exceptional tide surged through churches, shops and homes, causing millions of euros worth of damage to the UNESCO city.

Tourists larked around in the flooded St Mark’s Square in the sunshine, snapping selfies in their neon plastic boots and taking advantage of a respite in bad weather which has driven the high tides. Sirens warning of fresh flooding rang through the canal city early yesterday but the water level remained low compared to Tuesday’s tide, the highest in 50 years.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who has called the flooding “a blow to the heart of our country”, met Venice’s Mayor and emergency services before jumping in a speed boat to visit businesses and locals affected by the tide.

Residents whose houses had been hit would immediately get up to EUR5,000 (USD5,500) in government aid, while restaurant and shop owners could receive up to EUR20,000 and apply for more later, he said. Several museums remained closed to the public yesterday. As authorities assessed the extent of the damage to Venice’s cultural treasures, such as St Mark’s Basilica where water invaded the crypt, locals were defiant.

“It’s my way of making a living, what can I do?” Stefano Gabbanoto, 54, told AFP as he opened his newspaper kiosk despite the flooding.

People wearing waterproof shoe covers walk across the flooded St Mark’s Square. PHOTO: AFP