Venice under water

The recent "acqua alta" (high water) in Venice, Italy reached a depth of 1.56 meters (5 ft, 1 in.) on Monday - the deepest flood in 22 years, and the fourth highest flood level in recent history, claimed Venice's Tide Center. The water began to subside on Tuesday, while residents and tourists made their way through the city, hip-waders or not - one man even took the opportunity to ride his wakeboard through Piazza San Marco (until police stepped in). Although this flood was severe enough for the mayor to ask tourists to temporarily stay home, Venetian floods are fairly routine, several occurring every year, and residents usually take it all in stride. (25 photos total)

Venice 'under water' after worst floods for 20 years:

Venice has been hit by the worst flooding in more than 20 years, as high winds and days of heavy rain pushed the level of the city’s lagoon to more than five feet above its average height.

By Nick Squires in Rome
Last Updated: 11:43AM GMT 02 Dec 2008 From

More than 95 per cent of the historic city centre, including St Mark’s Square, was under water as the city was swamped by the most severe flood since 1986.

Tourists and residents were stranded in hotels and houses as the duckboards and pontoons which normally cope with Venice's high tides simply floated away.

Elderly people had to be carried to safety and shops and homes had to use pumps to bail out the water.

Venice’s mayor, Massimo Cacciari, advised tourists hoping to visit the city to “think again”.

The situation was worsened by a transport strike affecting Venice’s famous vaporetto ferries.

The governor of Veneto province, of which Venice is a part, criticised transport workers for choosing such a bad time to strike.

“I’d like to give them a medal for their sense of responsibility,” Giancarlo Galan said with heavy sarcasm.

Venice’s lagoon often rises to 40 inches above its normal level during 'acqua alta’ or high tides, particularly in autumn and winter.

But anything above 50 inches risks flooding the city and causing chaos for its 60,000 permanent residents and the tens of thousands of tourists who descend on it each day.

The worst flood in modern times was in 1966, when the lagoon rose more than six feet and caused widespread damage.

Experts say the severity and frequency of floods is becoming worse due to silt deposits raising the floor of the lagoon and a rise in sea levels caused by global warming.

After years of argument and indecision, Venice has started building a system of moveable barriers to control the inflow of water from the Adriatic Sea, but it is not expected to be finished until 2012.

Bad weather has affected much of Italy in recent days, with snow storms in the north, heavy rain in Umbria and Tuscany and thunder storms over Rome and as far south as Sicily.