The Heat Is Online

Venice Struggles With Worst Flood in 20 Years

Floods leave Venice under water


Tourists, residents wade through knee-high water across Italian city news services, Dec. 1, 2008


VENICE, Italy - Water in Venice has risen to its highest level in more than 20 years, leaving much of the Italian city under floods and forcing residents and tourists to wade through knee-high water.


City officials say the sea level topped 61 inches on Monday, well past the 40-inch flood mark, with most streets submerged.

Among the spots affected is St. Mark's Square, the landmark piazza that is the lowest point in the city.


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.

Don't venture out!


TV footage showed people rolling up their pants or wearing rubber boots as they walked through the water. Some had plastic wrapped around their legs, while some tourists in St. Mark's walked on chairs left in the piazza.

"These are exceptionally high waters,"
Venice's Mayor Massimo Cacciari was quoted as saying by the Ansa news agency. "Don't venture out unless it is necessary."


The entire city -- founded on a collection of marshy islands in the 5th century and criss-crossed by canals -- suffers from periodic flooding caused by high tides.


The government has begun a multi-billion euro floodgate project aimed at stopping rising sea levels destroying the city.


The last time Venice registered such high waters was in 1986, city officials said. The all-time record was 76 inches in 1966.


The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.