Venice – St. Mark’s Square in Venice was under water on Tuesday after a system of newly installed mobile dams could not be activated. Residents – long accustomed to perennial “acqua alta” or high-water events – once again put on their rubber boots to deal with the floods, which reached 4.5 meters above sea level in the afternoon.
The waters suppressed St. Mark’s Square, the lowest area of the Renaissance city, about three meters above sea level, and penetrated the famous basilica as many shopkeepers blocked its entrance with wooden boards to keep water out of it.
A huge flood protection system called MOSE, designed to protect the Venetian lagoon during high tide, was finally installed in October.
The network of caissons filled with water was designed to be lifted within 30 minutes to create a barrier that could withstand a water rise of about ten meters from normal.
But on Tuesday, the system did not work because the forecast erroneously predicted a rise of only four meters above sea level.
“Activation of MOSE requires greater forecasting,” Venetian Mayor Luigi Brugnaro told Italian news agency Agi.
“We’ll have to review the rules of command.”
On November 12, 2019, the water reached a peak of 6 meters above sea level, which is one of the highest. Dozens of churches with UNESCO World Heritage status have been damaged.
The MOSE infrastructure project began in 2003, but was hit by cost overruns, corruption scandals and delays.
The project cost about seven billion euros ($ 8 billion), compared to the original estimate of two billion.