Venice suffers worst flooding since 1966

Robie de Guzman   •   November 14, 2019   •   256

A view of flooding caused by bad weather in Venice, northern Italy, 13 November 2019. A wave of bad weather has hit much of Italy on 12 November. Levels of 100-120cm above sea level are fairly common in the lagoon city and Venice is well-equipped to cope with its rafts of pontoon walkways. EPA-EFE/ANDREA MEROLA

ROME – Around 80% of Venice is underwater in what has been described as “apocalyptic devastation.”

Those were the words of President of Veneto Luca Zaia as Italian authorities scrambled to tackle the worst flooding in the canal city since 1966.

“Venice is on its knees. St. Mark’s Basilica been severely damaged and so has the rest of the city and its islands,” Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro said following one of the most testing nights in the exposed city’s recent history.

The mayor told a press conference that he had met with people in tears “because they had lost everything” and that it was now time for a “historic response” to save one of Italy’s most popular destinations.

The Italian city has experienced its worst flooding in four decades amid an exceptionally high tide.

The phenomenon, known in the popular tourist destination as high waters (acqua alta), saw parts of the city covered by 187 centimeters (73.6 inches) of seawater late Tuesday and buffeted by strong winds.

In 1966, water levels peaked at 194cm.

The city’s warning sirens blared three times overnight and the damage wrought by the high waters was plain to see, although the exact damage to the famous city will be revealed once the flooding has subsided.

Gondolas and boats have been torn from their moorings and three vaporetti, waterbus, had capsized and another was adrift.

At least 60 vessels have been damaged, according to initial reports.

Shops, restaurants, and hotels in the city center have also been completely flooded.

The adverse conditions also claimed the life of a 78-year-old man who was electrocuted when he tried to start a generator at his house on the island of Pellestrina, south of the city.

Venice authorities have called on the central Italian government to declare a regional state of natural disaster and to prepare assistance for damages.

In response, the executive said it would discuss “necessary and urgent intervention to protect citizens” at the next cabinet meeting.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and several ministers have traveled to the city.

All schools in Venice and its islands were closed on Wednesday while areas like St. Mark’s Square were off-limits to tourists.

“It is devastation,” the director of the Venetian Hoteliers Association, Claudio Scarpa, told reporters.

“The damages are enormous and unfortunately it does not look like it is about to stop, the high tide is ongoing.

“The electrical panels at the hotel have tripped and therefore the pumps cannot be used to draw the water.”

Italy’s Civil Protection service said 130 firefighters were deployed to Venice.

Experts have warned that the high waters were expected to continue throughout the week with another peak of 138cm recorded on Wednesday morning.

The fate of St. Mark’s Basilica, which was severely damaged by flooding in October 2018 and was still undergoing restoration, was a major concern for city authorities.

Overnight, the water levels hit 110cm and submerged the crypt of the building.

Once the flooding recedes, conservation teams can evaluate the damage caused by saltwater to valuable mosaics and marble.

Patriarch of Venice Francesco Moraglia said at a press conference he had never seen flooding like that which hit the area overnight.

He added that waves were rolling across St. Mark’s square.

La Fenice opera house was also damaged in the flooding, but its main stage escaped unscathed so far.

The damage could push back the inauguration of the opera season set to start on 24 November.

The Culture Ministry has ordered a crisis unit to protect Venice’s cultural heritage.

As the flooding crept through the city, fresh controversy arose once again about the delay to the flood-defense system currently being constructed where the city meets the Adriatic Sea.

Known as the MOSE project, the mobile levy system designed to protect the Venetian lagoon was due to be finished in 2018 but was pushed back to 2022.

At a cost of more than five billion euros, the system aims to protect the city from high tides up to three meters.

The MOSE project has come under criticism by environmentalist groups and was even the center of a corruption scandal that saw the former mayor and 34 others forced to resign. – EFE-EPA / Cristina Cabrejas


High speed train derails near Milan in Italy; two dead

UNTV News   •   February 6, 2020

A high-speed train derailed in the northern Italian province of Lodi in the early hours of Thursday (February 6), killing at least two people and interrupting traffic on the line between Milan and Bologna, officials said.

Emergency services were at the scene and a railway official said two people had been killed and two others had suffered relatively serious injuries. A number of others had minor injuries.

Sky Italia television said two members of the train crew had been killed and 27 people injured.

The train skipped the tracks some 40 km (25 miles) from Italy’s financial capital Milan at around 5.30 am (0430 GMT), state railways said in a statement. It added that the causes of the accident were being investigated. (Reuters)

(Production: Cristiano Corvino, Emily Roe)

First two coronavirus cases confirmed in Italy

UNTV News   •   January 31, 2020

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Thursday (January 30) that two cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in Italy, the first in the country since the outbreak in Wuhan, China.

Two Chinese tourists who were visiting Italy had contracted the virus, Conte said.

Checks were being made to reconstruct the path of the two people to avoid further risks.

“We have two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Italy,” the prime minister told a news conference, adding that the government had decided to close air traffic to and from China.

“As far as we know we are the first country in the EU to adopt such a measure” Conte said.

Some 1,000 passengers are expected to disembark cruise ship Costa Smeralda on Friday (January 31) and others continue their holiday after a test carried out on a passenger from Macau who had been onboard proved she did not have the new coronavirus.

The Costa Crociere company’s ship Costa Smeralda docked in Civitavecchia on Thursday morning (January 30), north of Rome, with about 6,000 people aboard.

The mayor of the town had asked authorities to prevent passengers from disembarking until it had been confirmed the virus was not present.

The Costa Smeralda had visited Marseilles in France and the Spanish ports of Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca this week before docking on Thursday at Civitavecchia. (Reuters)

(Production: Cristiano Corvino, Antonio Denti, Oriana Boselli and Emily Roe)

19 Filipinos injured in Rome road crash

Robie de Guzman   •   October 22, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Nineteen Filipinos were hurt in a road accident involving a public transportation vehicle in Italy, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Tuesday.

In a statement, the DFA said the accident happened last Oct. 16 in Via Cassia, north of Rome.

The Philippine Embassy has interviewed nine of the Filipino victims who said they have received immediate medical attention for the muscle trauma they suffered from the accident.

Three of them also sustained wounds on the forehead while two had fractures on their shoulders and leg, the DFA added.

The Embassy assured it will continue to monitor the condition of the road mishap victims.

It will also coordinate with Italian authorities who have yet to determine the cause of the accident.

“Latest updates will be provided, once they become available. The Embassy stands ready to provide the necessary assistance to the Filipinos,” it added.

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