Dirty water swirls around marble tombs inside the 12th-century crypt of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice (Venezia), which suffered untold damage when an unprecedented high tide swept through the city.

Pumps work overtime to clear the seawater from around the altar and under the pink and white stone arches, as the historic monument’s custodians look on in sadness.
The exceptionally intense “acqua alta,” or high water, peaked at 1.87 meters (six feet) late Tuesday, forcing stranded tourists to wade through rapidly rising waters in the dark in search of safety as the flood alarm rang out.
Thousands of tourists flock to the Italo-Byzantine monument every day, gazing up at the shimmering gold ground mosaics that decorate its majestic domes or pausing in front of the venerated tomb of St Mark.
Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini said the government would cough up an as-yet-unspecified amount of funding to help preserve the site in the UNESCO city.
The city stands on wooden piles driven by their thousands into the mud, but rising sea levels and heavy cruise ship traffic have eaten away at the surrounding marshes and mudbanks. That leaves the gradually sinking Serenissima more vulnerable to the whims of the Adriatic sea.

A massive infrastructure project called MOSE has been underway since 2003 to protect it, but has been plagued by cost overruns, corruption scandals and delays.

The plan involves 78 gates that can be raised to protect Venice’s lagoon during high tides — but a recent attempt to test part of the barrier caused worrying vibrations and engineers discovered parts had rusted.

SHARE