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70 percent of Venice covered in water by flooding

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© The Associated Press A woman walks in a flooded street of Venice, Italy, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, as, according to city officials, 70 percent of the lagoon city has been flooded by waters rising 149 centimeters (more than 58 1/2 inches) above sea level. Venice frequently floods when high winds push in water from the lagoon, but Monday's levels are exceptional and forecast to rise even higher, to 160 centimeters (nearly 63 inches) by mid-afternoon. (Andrea Merola/ANSA via AP)

Associated Press
MILAN

Around three-quarters of the Italian lagoon city of Venice has been flooded after strong winds raised the water level by 156 centimeters (nearly 61-1/2 inches) before receding, officials said Monday.

Venice frequently floods when high winds push in water from the lagoon, but Monday's levels were exceptional. The peak level was the highest reached since December 2008, according to Venice statistics. The last time levels topped 160 centimeters, which had been forecast, was in December 1979.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said a series of underwater barriers being erected in the lagoon, nicknamed Moses, would have prevented the inundation. The project is long overdue, beset by cost overruns and corruption scandals.

Brugnaro said he had requested to speak with the Premier Giuseppe Conte to underline the urgency of the project, which would raise barriers when the tide reaches 43 inches. That happens on average four times a year.

The public transport company closed the water taxi service due to the emergency, with connections remaining active only to the outlying islands. The city, built on a series of islands, deals with the high water by erecting a series of risers that permit people to circulate by foot. Residents and businesses typically reinforce doors with metal or wooden panels to prevent water from entering bottom floors.

Much of Italy is under alert for flooding from heavy rains, a problem exacerbated by a lack of maintenance of river beds.

Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia says flooding could reach the levels of the 1966 flood that struck both Venice and Florence. In a message on Instagram, he called off schools in the region for a second day on Tuesday.

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