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70% of Venice Flooded by Highest Tide in at Least a Decade

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Tourists wade through a flooded Piazza San Marco in Venice Monday. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP / Getty Images

The worst flooding in at least a decade swamped Venice Monday as an exceptionally high tide covered around 70 percent of the iconic island city, the Huffington Post reported.

Venice is the Mediterranean World Heritage Site currently most at risk from flooding due to sea level rise, according to a recent study, and the city even has elevated sidewalks ready in case of high tides, but Monday's waters rose higher than the emergency sidewalks.


The tide surpassed 5 feet, 3 inches, making it the highest recorded since 2008 and potentially the highest recorded since 1979, CNN reported.

The high water didn't stop tourists from wading around famous landmarks like Piazza San Marco as business owners worked to keep water from entering their shops. Videos posted to social media showed waiters serving pizza in rubber boots, waves crashing against historic buildings and a jellyfish swimming up a cobblestone street.


Runners in the Venice Marathon competed Sunday despite 'the worst conditions ever for the event."

The flooding in Venice is immediately caused by a low-pressure system that has also brought flooding, wind and rain to other parts of northern Italy. At least six people have died, and popular Roman tourist sites like the Colosseum and Roman Forum were closed, the Huffington Post reported.

Venice, however, is increasingly used to flooding because of a combination of incoming silt, climate change and methane gas drilling in the sea nearby that undermines its islands, ABC News reported. When tide levels lower to 110 centimeters (approximately 3.6 feet) on Tuesday, they will be at levels Venice sees about four times a year, CNN said.

Venice has been working on an ambitious series of flood barriers since 2003 dubbed "Project Moses." The project features retractable gates that would block the entrance to the city's lagoon when tides are high, but corruption scandals and high costs have beset the operation, which should be completed in 2022 and has already cost around $6.5 billion, the Huffington Post reported.

But an article published in YaleEnvironment360 last year pointed out that the barrier, which was first conceived after a record-breaking 1966 flood, was only designed to withstand 1 foot of sea level rise, and some scientists think we could see 2 feet by 2050.

"After that, the sea will come in from other places to the north and the south. There is nothing we can do to stop it," project spokesperson Monica Ambrosini said.

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