THE mayor of Venice says the “future of the city” hangs in the balance after “apocalyptic” floods devastated the iconic lagoon metropolis.
More questions have been asked about a multi-billion euro barrier project which has been delayed because of escalating costs and corruption scandals.
Last night, sewage-tainted rivers coursed down streets overnight as water levels surged 1.87m above normal, the highest since 1966, which drove thousands of Venetians out of the city forever.
And mayor Luigi Brugnaro fears this disaster could have a similar impact on the city’s population.
He said: “Venice is on its knees.
“We are not just calculating the damages, but of the very future of the city – because the population drain also is a result of this.”
He called for a state of emergency as schools closed and firefighters struggled to answer distress calls from trapped residents.
“The damage will run into hundreds of millions of euros,” said Mr Brugnaro, who blamed climate change for the flood.
He called the flood “a wound that will leave indelible signs” in the Italian city, known for its picturesque canals.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte visited Venice yesterday and said the government is taking charge after the state of emergency was declared while promising funding.
He said: “The situation is dramatic – the people are suffering.”
A barrier project, known as Mose, at the mouth of the lagoon has been blighted by corruption, escalating costs and delays.
In 2014, Venice’s then mayor Giorgio Orsoni was arrested along with 35 others after millions of euros were siphoned from the ambitious development.