Venice was almost completely flooded on Monday, with rain-soaked tourists evacuated from St Mark’s Square as fierce storms lashed Italy.
Water transport services were halted across Venice as 75 per cent of the city centre flooded to 156cm (61inc) by early afternoon, the highest level since 2012.
Residents and visitors were wading through waist-high water in St Mark’s Square before the mayor gave orders to evacuate the area. Police wearing hip waders carried a number of children to safety as stranded tourists waited to be ferried to higher ground.
“All of Veneto is in code red alarm for this wave of bad weather,” said Luca Zaia, the regional president, warning that conditions could match historic flood levels of 1966.
Venice is accustomed to “acqua alta” or high water and has a complex monitoring system in place for measuring the ebb and flow of water in the city. In 2003, Italy began construction on a massive system of surge protection gates around Venice, but fifteen years and €5.5 billion euros later the project is still unfinished.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte mobilised civil protection authorities to aid local Venetian officials with rescue response, while Matteo Salvini, the interior minister, said authorities had 24-hour monitoring in place for all the high-risk areas from northern Liguria to southern Calabria.
Streets, schools and public transit systems were closed across the country, with a number of coastal cities and mountain regions on high alert for flooding and landslides due to high winds and heavy rains that authorities said were responsible for at least three deaths and more than a dozen injured.
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In Sardinia and Elba, winds reached 160km/h, causing authorities to halt ferry service to the islands.
Civil authorities reported weather-related transportation and infrastructure disruptions from the northern province of Bergamo in Lombardy to the wind-whipped strait of Messina, in Sicily.
Rome residents were urged to stay inside and avoid travel as authorities in the capital reported at least 15 people had been injured. Near Naples, authorities closed the popular Pompeii archeological ruins and evacuated visiting tourists.