Italy weather: Italy braces as flood warnings spread past Venice to Florence and Pisa

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ITALY has been lashed with rain as the huge floods that forced Venice to close St Mark’s Square again following the third major deluge in a week triggered fears major cities such as Florence and Pisa could also soon be under several feet of water.

Tuscany’s President Enrico Rossi sparked fears in Pisa after tweeting a warning of a “flood wave” on the Arno, and said boards were being installed on the swollen river’s banks “as a precautionary measure”. Italian paratroopers have been drafted in to bolster defences in Pisa, with authorities also monitoring the same river in Florence after torrential rain meant water levels rose drastically overnight. Civil protection units Florence have warned citizens not to stand close to the Arno’s rover banks.

Flooding from the Arno devastating Florence in 1966, killing some 100 people and destroying thousands of pieces of priceless works of art.

The latest fears come after Venice was forced to close St Mark’s Square today as the battered city suffered its third major flooding in less than a week.

Venice was hit with tides of 150cm (5ft) on Sunday – only slightly lower than Tuesday’s 187cm – which was the highest in half a century.

Temporary walkways were removed from the famous square as the water began to rise again, with only police and soldiers visible at around midday.

The city’s Mayor Luigi Brugnaro, who has estimated the damage so far from the salt water to be at more than €1million so far, tweeted: “Maximum attention for today’s tide.

“St Mark’s Square is closed. Safety first.”

On Saturday, the city’s weather forecast centre warned the tide could reach 160cm (5.25 feet) just after midday today.

The Mayor told a press conference yesterday: “It will be a tough day tomorrow, but we are ready.”

Mr Brugnaro, who has been appointed as the special commissioner to deal with the emergency, said he had received offers of support from the European Union, adding the European Investment Bank could grant special loans for repairs.

Since Monday, the city has been swamped by four tides rising above 140cm – the worst week for high tides in Venice since 1872.

Venice endured its worst flooding in 50 years on Tuesday when the tide peaked at 187cm (6.14ft) at 9.50pm – just short of the record 194cm (6.3ft) set in 1966.

The flooding has caused more than $1billion (£770million) worth of damage, submerging the famous St Mary’s Square under several feet of water.

On Thursday, the Italian Government declared a state of emergency for Venice, after the deadly floods brought “widespread devastation” to to its historic basilica, with the city’s Mayor warning the city is “on its knees”.

In a post on Facebook, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said: “The disaster that hit Venice is a blow to the heart of our country. It hurts to see the city so damaged, its artistic heritage compromised, and its business activities so severely affected.

“I gave a clear signal to the authorities and local institutions I met this afternoon: the government is there for you. It is with Venice and Venetians.

“Tomorrow I will be in the city again, I will meet the local community and we will have another operational meeting in the Prefecture to see the real damage and to give the first solutions.

“In the afternoon I will return to Rome for a Council of Ministers during which we will take charge of the request for a state of emergency. We are ready to allocate the first funds.

“I will also accelerate the structural solution to the problems, linked to the extraordinary maintenance of the barriers and the hydraulic systems.

The Italian Prime Minister added: “But it is not only Venice. In these hours many other regions are affected by this violent wave of bad weather. With the Head of Civil Protection we are constantly monitoring the news from all over Italy.

“From the rest of the Veneto, as from Friuli Venezia Giulia, from Puglia to Trentino Alto Adige, from Naples to Matera and from other territories.

“On the Government’s part, our attention is maximum.”

Emanuela Carpani, the official supervising art works and historic buildings, said half the city’s 120 churches had been flooded with salt water on Tuesday, damaging some mosaic floors.

She told the press conference: “Water is a cancer whose damages emerge after months,” adding the first repairs to these churches could cost €3.6 million.

On Tuesday, the flooding destroyed shops and hotels, leaving many of the city’s historic squares and side streets deep underwater.

Mr Brugnaro warned Venice was “on its knees” and warned of further “widespread devastation”.

Luca Zaia, the premier of the Veneto region, warned the city was “faced with total, apocalyptic devastation”.

He told Italian media: “I’m not exaggerating – 80 percent of the city is under water, the damage is unimaginable.”

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