Venice, December 1, 2008 – Water in Venice, Italy has risen to its highest level in more than 20 years, leaving much of the city flooded and forcing residents and tourists to wade through knee-high water. St Mark’s square was submerged under almost 3 feet (a meter) of water. The rest of the historic center was also flooded, with many pontoon bridges floating off to leave residents stranded in their homes.
Acqua alta is the term Venetians use of the exceptionally high tides that occur periodically in the northern Adriatic Sea.
The only Venetians getting about were those equipped with thigh-high boots fishermen boots.
Many elderly people had to be carried to safety, as the bottom floors of homes and shops started operating their bailout pumps. Workers have been unable to install the raised wooden walkways used during flooding because the water rose too high and too quickly under heavy rains.
City Mayor Massimo Cacciari advised local people to stay at home and asked anyone thinking of coming to Venice right now to ”think again”.
To cap things off, the city was hit by a transport strike which prompted Veneto Governor Giancarlo Galan to say sarcastically: ”I’d like to give them (the strikers) a medal for their sense of responsibility”.
Pushed by relentless winds, the sea level rose to 156 centimeters above normal – the highest ‘acqua alta’ (high water) since 1.58m in 1986 and 1.66m in December 1979.
The record ‘acqua alta’ was in the great flood of 1966, at 1.94m. Levels of 100-130 cm above sea level are fairly common in the lagoon city and Venice is well-equipped to cope with its rafts of pontoon walkways. Anything much above 140cm risks swamping the city and washing the walkways away.
The high-water threat has been increasing in recent years as heavier rains have hit northern Italy, weather experts say. Scientists have conceived of various ways of warding off the waters since the catastrophic 1966 flood, and a system of moveable flood barriers called MOSE is being installed after years of discussion.
Experts say there are three main reasons for high water in the city: the rising floor in the lagoon caused by incoming silt; the undermining of the islands by the extraction of methane gas in the sea off Venice; and the overall increase in sea levels caused by global warming.
Content Reprinted From ANSA