A particularly high tide resulted in Venice declaring a state of emergency on Wednesday, as water levels reached 6 feet-2 inches—the highest it’s been since 1966 (when it topped 6 feet-4 inches). According to Reuters, “thoroughfares were turned into raging torrents, stone balustrades were shattered, boats tossed ashore and gondolas smashed against their moorings.”
More than 80 percent of the city was underwater when the tide was at its highest, and only the incident in 1966 topped the current flooding since the tide-monitoring center has been keeping official records (1923).
Landmarks, such as Saint Mark’s Square, were underwater by more than three feet, while Saint Mark’s Basilica was flooded for just the sixth time in 1,200 years (but the fourth time in only the last 20), according to the BBC. “The Basilica is suffering structural damage because the water has risen and so it’s causing irreparable damage,” said Venice Archbishop Francesco Moraglia, according to Reuters.
The Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, which looks onto the lagoon, was also flooded.
A flood barrier was designed in 1984 to protect Venice from high tides like this, but the multibillion-Euro project, known as Mose, has been suffered from corruption, cost overruns and prolonged delays. “If Mose had been working, then we would have avoided this exceptional high tide,” Brugnaro said. “The Mose must be finished soon,” he added on Twitter.
Further bad weather is expected later this week.