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Venice flooded as €6bn barrier not activated

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People walk past the Rialto Bridge during high tide after the flood barriers known as Moses were not raised, in Venice, Italy. Photo: REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri

People walk past the Rialto Bridge during high tide after the flood barriers known as Moses were not raised, in Venice, Italy. Photo: REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri

People walk past the Rialto Bridge during high tide after the flood barriers known as Moses were not raised, in Venice, Italy. Photo: REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri

Angry Venetians were left mopping out homes and shops yesterday after authorities failed to activate the €6bn sea barrier designed to save the city from flooding.

The barrier, named Moses after the Biblical figure who parted the Red Sea, became operational in October and is capable of shielding the World Heritage Site from high tides. But when a surge in the sea level occurred on Tuesday, it was not deployed.

Weather forecasters had predicted a 1.25m (4.1ft) high tide but Moses – 78 giant hinged gates that can close off Venice’s lagoon from the Adriatic Sea – is normally not activated until the tide reaches 1.3m.

But a combination of heavy rain and an unexpected bora wind pushed the high tide to 1.38m, flooding St Mark’s Square and many other parts of Venice with knee-high levels of water. By that time, it was too late to raise the barrier.

“The situation is terrible,” said Carlo Alberto Tessein, guardian of St Mark’s Basilica, the Byzantine cathedral in St Mark’s Square. “Floods like this make the basilica ever more fragile.”

Claudio Vernier, the president of a business owners’ association in the square, said: “To have something like Moses and not use it is unfathomable.”

Iginio Mascari, who runs a spice shop near the Rialto Bridge, told La Repubblica newspaper: “Any fisherman knows the weather in the lagoon changes from one moment to another.”

With more high tides predicted, the barrier has been activated and will remain up for the next few days.

Luigi Brugnaro, the mayor of Venice, said the city needed to have more say in raising the barriers.


(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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