"Apocalyptic Flooding": Stunning Images As Venice Endures 2nd Highest Tide In History

Stunning images have come out of the historic city of Venice, which has been hit with catastrophic floods due to the second-highest tide recorded in the city's history bringing water levels high over city squares and foot paths, also amid extreme winds and rain.

Mayor Brugnaro has declared a state of emergency after the Tuesday tide peaked at just over 6-feet during the evening. The only time in recorded history the waters reached that high was in 1966, when the tide reached nearly six-and-a-half feet. 

St. Mark's Square, Getty Image.

Early Wednesday about 50% of the city had been reported flooded by the unusual tide, and some reports into overnight Wednesday say 85% is now under water, given it sits at sea level as it was famously built on a network of over 100 small islands in a lagoon on the Adriatic Sea, and is connected by canals. This impacts a total of 53,000 residents, at a low point in the tourism cycle.

At least two people have died, one described as an elderly man who was electrocuted when he attempted to operate electric pumps at his home, according to Italian authorities, following a mass power outage across much of the city.

Extreme winds have also knocked out some communications and have made accessible transport difficult for storm-battered residents.

Venetian authorities say high tides of 140cm (55 inches) or more, referred to in Italian as "acqua alta", usually take place in winter months. 

Head clergyman over St Mark's Basilica, Francesco Moraglia, told reporters: "I have never seen something like what I saw yesterday afternoon [Tuesday] at St. Mark's square. There were waves as if we were at the beach."

Water has entered churches and historic sites. Getty Image.

Mayor Brugnaro has warned the flooding “is going to leave an indelible wound” on Venice, as efforts are underway to protect homes, property, and world heritage sites. 

Image source: Beanotown Photography

"We are not just talking about calculating the damages, but of the very future of the city," Brugnaro said. "Because the population drain also is a result of this."

The governor of the region, Luca Zaia, also described: “We faced a total and apocalyptic flood, I will not exaggerate in words, but 80% of the city is under water. Unimaginable damage has been done.”

In some parts of the city residents were seen "swimming for their lives" according to eyewitness accounts. 

Getty Image

Plans have long been in place for a massive emergency protection project that would see a series of 78 'floating gates' set up around the city to control the impact of high tides, but it's been beset by cost-related delays.