Venice flooding close to level of 1966 floods

A man wades through floods in Venice, Italy, yesterday. [Reuters]
Venice's mayor called the city a disaster zone yesterday after the second highest tide ever recorded swept through it overnight, flooding its historic basilica and leaving many squares and alleyways deep under water.

A local man from Pellestrina, one of the many islands in the Venetian lagoon, died when he was struck by lightning while using an electric water pump, the fire brigade said.

City officials said the tide peaked at 187cm (6ft 2ins) at 10.50pm (2150 GMT) on Tuesday, just short of the record 194 cm set in 1966. Night-time footage showed a torrent of water whipped up by high winds raging through the city centre while Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, described a scene of "apocalyptic devastation".

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said the situation was dramatic. "We ask the government to help us. The cost will be high. This is the result of climate change," he said.

He said he would declare a disaster zone and ask the government to call a state of emergency, which would allow funds to be freed to address the damage.

Saint Mark's Square was submerged by more than one metre of water, while Saint Mark's Basilica was flooded for the sixth time in 1,200 years - but the fourth in the last 20.

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