A woman crosses the flooded St. Mark's square by St. Mark's Basilica after an exceptional overnight "Alta Acqua" high tide water level, November 13, 2019 in Venice.
The mayor of Venice has blamed climate change as flooding of the historic lagoon city hit the second-highest level ever, as the city braced for another wave on Wednesday. 'Now the government must listen, ' he added.
Venice's tide forecast office said the water level peaked at 1.27 meters (about 4 feet 3 inches) Tuesday morning but warned that an even higher tide was forecast for after nightfall.
The highest level ever recorded was 194 centimeters (76 inches) during the infamous flood of 1966.
"The situation is dramatic", Brugnaro said on Twitter, per a Reuters translation. "We ask the government to help us".
Water taxis attempting to drop people off at the glamorous and historic hotels along the Grand Canal discovered the gangways had been washed away, and had to help passengers clamber through windows. The Basilica of San Marco has suffered serious damage as the entire city and the islands. While the crypt at St. Mark's was flooded, a member of its management board tells Italian news agency ANSA that the main concern is that water may have damaged the basilica's support columns.
Two people died on the island of Pellestrina, a thin strip of land that separates the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. A man was reportedly fatally electrocuted after floodwaters rushed into his home, and the body of another man was found in his home.
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The damage to the city and its precious art works and buildings is hard to estimate at this point but sea-water damage is known to be catastrophic for their preservation. Chairs and tables were seen floating outside cafes and restaurants.
One shopkeeper, who was not named, told Italy's public broadcaster Rai: "The city is on its knees".
Many struggled valiantly through the knee-deep waters, with one French couple saying that they had been forced to "swim" when wooden platforms acting as bridges across flooded areas overturned.
Since 2003, a massive infrastructure project has been underway to protect Venice, but it has been plagued by cost overruns, scandals and delays.
The project has already cost billions of euros in investment.
Called "Moses", the moveable undersea barriers are meant to limit flooding of the city, caused by southerly winds that push the tide into Venice.
Much of Italy has been pummelled by torrential rains in recent days, with wide spreading flooding, especially in the southern heel and toe of the country.