Italy’s Venice was hit by the highest tide in more than 50 years late on Tuesday, with tourists wading through severely flooded streets to seek shelter.
The tide monitoring centre said the exceptionally intense “acqua alta,” or high waters, peaked at 1.87 metres (six feet) as the flood alarm sounded across the city.
Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said the disaster is a direct result of climate change and will “a permanent mark”.
“These are the effects of climate change… the costs will be high,” Brugnaro said on Twitter.
“The situation is dramatic. We ask the government to help us,” he tweeted, adding that schools would remain closed until the water level subsides.
The Mayor said further that he would declare a state of disaster, warning that a project to help prevent the Venetian lagoon suffering devastating floods “must be finished soon”.
He also urged local businesses to share photos and video footage of the devastation, which he said would be useful when requesting financial help from the government.
Since 2003, an enormous project to build 78 floating gates to protect Venice’s lagoon during high tides has been under development, but it has been plagued by cost overruns, scandals and delays.
According to Italy’s infrastructure ministry, the flood barriers will be handed over to the Venice city council at the end of 2021 following the “final phase” of testing.