Italy’s Venice Braces For More Flooding

People walk in the flooded street near Rialto bridge, on November 15, 2019 in Venice, two days after the city suffered its highest tide in 50 years. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP
People walk in the flooded street near Rialto bridge, on November 15, 2019 in Venice, two days after the city suffered its highest tide in 50 years. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

Venice was on red alert for more floods and fierce winds on Saturday after an exceptionally high tide swamped the city of canals, where authorities have declared a state of emergency.

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro ordered the iconic St Mark’s Square closed on Friday as the latest sea surge struck with strong storms and winds battering the region.

It reached a high of 1.54 metres (five feet) just before midday — lower than Tuesday’s peak but still dangerous.

“I’m forced to close the square to avoid health risks for citizens… a disaster,” Brugnaro said.

In the afternoon the square reopened as water levels receded.

But civil protection authorities issued a weather “red alert” for the Venice region on Saturday, warning of violent winds.

Churches, shops and homes in the UNESCO city have been inundated by unusually intense “acqua alta”, or high water, which on Tuesday hit their highest level in half a century.

“We’ve destroyed Venice, we’re talking about one billion (euros) in damage and that’s just from the other day, not today,” Brugnaro said.

The crisis has prompted the government to release 20 million euros ($22 million) in funds to tackle the devastation.

“It’s shocking to see this, having water up to your knees,” Mexican tourist Oscar Calzada, 19, told AFP Friday.

Surveying the damage, Culture Minister Dario Franceschini warned the task of repairing the city would be huge. More than 50 churches had suffered damage, he said.

“Seeing these places first-hand gives the sense of a much greater disaster than TV images show,” Franceschini said.

Hotel reservations cancelled

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared a state of emergency for the city on Thursday.

Residents whose houses have been hit are eligible for up to 5,000 euros in immediate government aid, while restaurant and shop owners can receive up to 20,000 euros and apply for more later.

Mayor Brugnaro on Friday also announced the opening of a fund where people in Italy and around the world could contribute to the historic city’s repair.

One tourist, Italian Nicole Righetti, said she would be willing to pitch in.

“It would be a shame to no longer be able to see these places, and I think everyone should give,” Righettii said.

Some Venetians, used to the inconvenience of their city’s rising waters, nevertheless expressed frustration.

“All the stock in the basement is lost,” lamented Luciano, a worker at a shop along St. Mark’s Square.

He said he remembered well the infamous “acqua alta” of 1966, when the water rose to a level of 1.94 metres, the highest-ever since records began in 1923.

“These so frequent high waters have never happened before… this time there’s so much more damage than in the past,” he said.

Hotels reported cancelled reservations, some as far ahead as December, following the widespread diffusion of images of Venice underwater.

Climate change warning

Tuesday’s high waters submerged around 80 percent of the city, officials said.

Many, including Venice’s mayor, have blamed the disaster on global warming and warned that the country prone to natural disasters must wake up to the risks posed by ever more volatile seasons.

The Serenissima, as the floating city is called, is home to 50,000 residents but receives 36 million global visitors each year.

A massive infrastructure project called MOSE has been under way since 2003 to protect the city, but it has been plagued by cost overruns, corruption scandals and delays.

 

AFP

Climate Change, Corruption Blamed For Venice Flood Devastation

A tourist takes a photo from the flooded embankment by the Rialto bridge, after an exceptional overnight “Alta Acqua” high tide water level, on November 13, 2019 in Venice. Venice was hit by the highest tide in more than 50 years late November 12, with tourists wading through flooded streets to seek shelter as a fierce wind whipped up waves in St. Mark’s Square. PHOTO: MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Much of Venice was left under water after the highest tide in 50 years ripped through the historic Italian city, beaching gondolas, trashing hotels and sending tourists fleeing through rapidly rising waters.

The government in Rome was expected to declare a state of emergency at a cabinet meeting on Thursday after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte described the flooding as “a blow to the heart of our country”.

Officials blamed climate change while shopkeepers on the Grand Canal raged against those who have failed to protect the UNESCO city from the high tide.

They said corruption had repeatedly delayed a barrier protection system that could have prevented the disaster.

“The city is on its knees,” Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro said in an interview with national broadcaster RAI.

“There’s widespread devastation,” he said in the famed St Mark’s Square, which bore the brunt of the flooding. “In all likelihood the damage from last night runs into hundreds of millions of euros.”

The state of emergency for a natural disaster will allow the government to use “exceptional powers and means” to intervene more quickly, and Conte said his government was ready to allocate funds.

“The disaster that has struck Venice is a blow to the heart of our country,” Conte said at the scene. “It hurts to see the city so damaged, its artistic heritage threatened.”

St Mark’s Square was calm on Wednesday evening, with just a smattering of tourists walking through the relatively dry square marked with occasional puddles.

Four Venetian friends who had gathered in the square, all wearing boots, said the relative quiet and lack of tourists was upside of an otherwise harrowing few days.

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” said Alvise, 19.

Earlier, tourists lugging heavy suitcases waded in thigh-high boots or barefoot through the submerged alleys, as gondola and water taxi drivers baled sewage-tainted water out of their trashed vessels.

Schools would stay closed on Thursday, authorities said.

‘We can’t live like this’

Dirty water was swirling around the marble tombs inside the 12th-century crypt of St Mark’s Basilica, which suffered untold damage when an unprecedented high tide swept through the city.

It was closed to tourists as were many other Venice highlights including the Fenice Theatre and the Ducal Palace.

“We said last year that the basilica had aged 20 years in a high tide. It risks having aged much more than that in this one,” said the building’s procurator Carlo Alberto Tesserin.

A 78-year old was killed by an electric shock as the waters poured into his home.

“We ask the government to help us, the costs will be high,” mayor Brugnaro tweeted. “These are the effects of climate change.”

“The future of Venice is at stake,” he warned. “We cannot live like this anymore.”

Environment Minister Sergio Costa blamed climate change and the “tropicalisation” of violent rainfall and strong winds.

“This is what is happening more and more often in the Mediterranean,” Costa said on Facebook.

“Global warming will destroy our planet if we do not immediately reverse the direction.”

 ‘Acqua alta’

The exceptionally intense “acqua alta,” or high waters, peaked at 1.87 metres (six feet). Only once since records began in 1923 has the water crept even higher, reaching 1.94 metres in 1966.

“It was unbelievable. The water rose so quickly,” said resident Tiziano Collarin, 59, as he surveyed the damage.

“Windows were blown out, there are those who have lost everything,” he said as the flood alarm rang out to warn those in the canal city that the tide, which had receded somewhat overnight, was rising once again.

The fire brigade said it had carried out over 400 operations as well as laying on extra boats as water ambulances.

Around 160 firefighters were deployed to rescue people stranded on jetties and to recover boats broken free from their moorings.

President of the Veneto region Luca Zaia said 80 percent of the city had been submerged, causing “unimaginable damage” to the city, which has 50,000 residents but receives 36 million visitors each year.

A massive infrastructure project called MOSE has been under way since 2003 to protect the city, but it has been plagued by cost overruns, corruption scandals and delays.

The plan involves 78 gates that can be raised to protect Venice’s lagoon during high tides — but a recent attempt to test part of the barrier caused worrying vibrations and engineers discovered parts had rusted.

Outside historic Venice, the Lido and Pellestrina islands were also hard hit by flooding.

AFP

Jane Fonda, Robert Redford Turn Up The Heat In Venice

Jane Fonda wished the sex scene in her new movie with Robert Redford had lasted longer, the 79-year-old American actress said as their latest collaboration on screen “Our Souls at Night” premiered at the Venice film festival on Friday (September 01).

“I live for sex scenes with him,” Fonda told journalists in Venice. “He’s a great kisser so it was fun to kiss him in my 20s and to kiss him again in my almost 80s.”

Forty-seven years after their collaboration on the set of “Barefoot in the Park”, Fonda and Redford reunite in a Netflix production directed by Indian filmmaker Ritesh Batra about getting another chance at love when one gets older.

Redford, also the movie’s producer, said he wanted to make it because today’s film industry was increasingly geared towards younger viewers and “there were very few opportunities for films to be made that would satisfy the older audience”.

Both 81-year-old Redford and Fonda were honoured with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the festival on Friday.

The movie, which screened out-of-competition at the festival, tells the story of Addie Moore and Louis Waters, two retired and widowed neighbours living in a small town in the U.S. state of Colorado.

They have known each other most of their lives but rarely spoken. That changes when Addie knocks on Louis’ door one night and without much ado, asks: “Would you be interested in coming to my house sometime to sleep with me?”

What started as simply having bedtime conversations to help Addie fall asleep, soon goes deeper.

Both start sharing their long-silenced regrets about life-changing events in their married lives – Louis’ extramarital affair and Addie’s loss of a daughter – and the resulting difficult relationship with their adult children.

“For me the movie is about hope,” Fonda said about the adaptation of a Kent Haruf novel.

While Redford lamented the fact that when you get older “you have to give up certain things” which he found hard to deal with, Fonda said at least on a love and sexual level getting older was a good thing.

“It gets better because we’re braver, what the heck do we have to lose? So my skin sags, so does his. You know your body better so you’re not afraid to ask for what you need,” she said.

Reuters

George Clooney, Julianne Moore, Matt Damon Arrive In Venice

It might have been raining as he arrived on the Venice Lido but that didn’t stop George Clooney from turning on the Hollywood charm as his boat pulled in on Friday (September 1).

A regular at the Venice Film Festival, Clooney’s new movie ‘Suburbicon’ is competing in the festival’s main competition section this year and due to have it’s world premiere on Saturday (September 2).

Clooney directs the family drama which stars Julianne Moore and Matt Damon.

The Venice Film Festival runs until September 9, when the Golden Lion will be awarded.