Venice’s mayor declared a state of emergency on Wednesday after “apocalyptic” floods swept through the lagoon city, flooding its historic basilica and inundating squares and centuries-old buildings.
Thoroughfares were turned into raging torrents, stone balustrades were shattered, boats tossed ashore and gondolas smashed against their moorings as the lagoon tide peaked at 187 cm (6ft 2ins) shortly before midnight.
It was the highest level since the record 194 cm set in 1966 but with rising water levels becoming a regular threat to the tourist jewel, city mayor Luigi Brugnaro was quick to blame climate change for the disaster.
“Venice is on its knees,” said Brugnaro. “The damage will run into hundreds of millions of euros.”
“This is the result of climate change,” he said on Twitter.
The floods, accentuated by driving rains and strong winds, also ravaged areas beyond the city itself.
One man died on Pellestrina, one of the many islands that dot the Venetian lagoon, electrocuted while trying to pump water out of his house.
“Venice has been tortured, but there are also other parts of the Veneto region besides Venice. It is an apocalyptic disaster,” regional governor Luca Zaia told reporters.
He said he was “horrified” by what he was seeing from numerous communities.
Venice’s huge Saint Mark’s Square, once described as Europe’s living room, was submerged by more than one meter of water, while the adjacent Saint Mark’s Basilica was flooded for the sixth time in 1,200 years - but the fourth in the last 20.