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Venice: Italian government announces aid after floods


Venice is struggling with the consequences of a devastating flood - and the civil defense warns of new storms. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte speaks of a "stab in the heart of our country".

In view of the enormous damage caused by the heavy floods in Venice, the government in Rome has announced assistance. "The disaster that hit Venice is a bite into the heart of our country," said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during a visit to the lagoon city. His cabinet is ready to release aid. The government wants to declare the emergency for Venice in the afternoon, in order to be able to provide funds faster.

Large parts of Venice are currently suffering from the worst flooding in more than 50 years. Due to the water masses many jetties for the famous tourist gondolas were torn away. St. Mark's Square and the cathedral were flooded, as were hotels, shops and residential buildings. Ships went down, walls were destroyed. At least one person died.

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro had estimated the damage on Wednesday to several hundred million euros. "We ask the government to help us, the costs will be high," wrote Brugnaro on Twitter. He blamed climate change for the floods. Similarly, Environment Minister Sergio Costa commented. "Global warming will destroy our planet if we do not take immediate action," he wrote on Facebook.

Some residents of Venice blamed corruption for the disaster. They accuse politicians of selling the city to tourism and cruise companies and not really looking after the protection.

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Flood in Venice: a state of emergency in the World Heritage city

The storm flood barrier "Mose", which has been under construction since 2003 and has already invested between six and seven billion euros, is still not operational. It is to protect the city with extendable barriers against flood.

Mayor Brugnaro urges to complete the scandal-prone flood protection project. He believes that catastrophes such as the current flood with "Moses" can be avoided. However, the construction has been delayed for years due to corruption scandals and criticism from environmentalists. Media call the project "the great unfinished".

Prime Minister Conte now said that the construction was "92 to 93 percent" ready. "Venice is a cultural heritage of Italy and humanity, and it is necessary to solve a series of historical problems."

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The Italian civil defense warned against new storms with strong winds in the Veneto region. However, the water level is far from reaching the record level as in the night to Wednesday.

The Ministry of Culture intends to inspect St. Mark's Basilica on Thursday for damages. Culture Minister Dario Franceschini spoke of an emergency. Cultural monuments have been affected by salty and dirty water. Works of art in collections or material in archives and libraries were however according to first findings not damaged.

Schools and kindergartens should also be closed on Thursday, the shipping traffic was extremely limited. The opera La Fenice canceled performances. The Art Biennale, on the other hand, said it would open again after the site was closed on Wednesday and artworks were checked for damage.

Source: spiegel

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