Acqua Alta

Venice is slammed with floods as architectural treasures are submerged

This week Venice was inundated by historic flooding, the worst since 1966. (Julie Mac/Flickr)

Over the last 24 hours, the city of Venice, Italy, has experienced record-breaking flooding—the highest its been in over 50 years. According to city officials, 85 percent of Venice was underwater by yesterday evening with peak water heights reaching just over six feet. 

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro called for a state of emergency, citing the flooding as more than just a city-wide problem, but a global issue and a result of climate change. The “Acqua Alta” as it’s officially called, was caused this week by high tides and a strong, low-pressure storm system in the north Adriatic Sea, reported The Washington Post. Hotel lobbies, churches, and even plazas like St. Mark’s Square, which through photos you can see was swimmable at one point, have been submerged and are now barely walkable.  

Reports are also coming in that the 925-year-old St. Mark’s Basilica has been severely damaged by the event. It’s the second time the architectural icon has flooded in the last two years but could turn out to be the worst. The basilica has only flooded six times throughout its entire history. 

Venice has been more strategically striving to stop such catastrophic flooding from happening in the last several decades. Its MOSE project was established in the late 1980s and construction began in 2003 in an attempt to protect the city and the Venetian Lagoon by building an underwater floodgate system to seal off the city’s inlets during acqua alta. Due to cost overruns, construction delays, and corruption within the Italian government, the build-out of all 78 gates essentially halted for five years and missed its target deadline of last year. With the goal of protecting Venice from flooding of up to 10 feet, work on MOSE is expected to be completed by 2022, although that could change thanks to this week’s devastation. 

The Conversation US reported last September that without intervention like the completed MOSE project, Venice could be totally underwater by the year 2100. The publication conducted a research study with the National Research Center of Venice and found that such disastrous flooding could occur with nearly every high tide in 50 years. 

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