Venice hit by high tide as Italy buffeted by winds; 6 killed

MILAN (AP) — Venice was inundated by an exceptional high tide Monday, putting three-quarters of the famed Italian lagoon city under water as large swathes of the rest of Italy experienced flooding and heavy winds that toppled trees and other objects, killing six people.

Tourists and residents alike donned high boots to navigate the streets of Venice after strong winds raised the water level 156 centimeters (over 5 feet) before receding. The water exceeded the raised walkways normally put out in flooded areas in Venice, forcing their removal. Transport officials closed the water bus system except to outlying islands because of the emergency.

Venice frequently floods when high winds push in water from the lagoon, but Monday's levels were exceptional. The peak level was the highest reached since December 2008, according to Venice statistics.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said a series of underwater barriers that are being erected in the lagoon would have prevented the inundation. The project, nicknamed Moses, is long overdue, beset by cost overruns and corruption scandals.

Brugnaro said he had asked to talk with Premier Giuseppe Conte to underline the urgency of the project, which would raise barriers when the tide reaches 109 centimeters (43 inches). That happens, on average, four times a year in Venice.

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Flooding in Venice, Italy
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Flooding in Venice, Italy
VENICE, ITALY - OCTOBER 29: Tourists carry a stroller through the flood waters on October 29, 2018 in Venice, Italy. Today due to the exceptional level of the 'acqua alta' that reaced 156 cm schools and hospitals of Venice remained closed the authorities have also advised citizens against leaving their homes (Photo by Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images)
VENICE, ITALY - OCTOBER 29: People walk across temporary walkways following flooding caused by a high tide on October 29, 2018 in Venice, Italy. Due to the exceptional level of the 'acqua alta' or 'High Tide' that reached 156 cm today, Venetian schools and hospitals were closed by the authorities, and citizens were advised against leaving their homes . (Photo by Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images)
VENICE, ITALY - OCTOBER 29: A restaurant owner looks at the flood waters on October 29, 2018 in Venice, Italy. Due to the exceptional level of the 'acqua alta' or 'High Tide' that reached 156 cm today, Venetian schools and hospitals were closed by the authorities, and citizens were advised against leaving their homes . (Photo by Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images)
Weather emergency In Venice, italy, on 29 October 2018 due to the High water: almost all the city have been underwater with a maximum level reached of 160cm on the sea level. (Photo by Giacomo Cosua/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Weather emergency In Venice, italy, on 29 October 2018 due to the High water: almost all the city have been underwater with a maximum level reached of 160cm on the sea level. (Photo by Giacomo Cosua/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Weather emergency In Venice, italy, on 29 October 2018 due to the High water: almost all the city have been underwater with a maximum level reached of 160cm on the sea level. (Photo by Giacomo Cosua/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A man empties a bucket of water on a flooded street during a high-water (Acqua Alta) alert in Venice on October 29, 2018. - The flooding, caused by a convergence of high tides and a strong Sirocco wind, reached 156 centimetres on October 29. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
Tourists under arches next to the flooded St Mark's Square during a high-water (Acqua Alta) alert in Venice on October 29, 2018. - The flooding, caused by a convergence of high tides and a strong Sirocco wind, reached around 150 centimetres on October 29, 2018. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman carries a suitcase upon her shoulders in the flooded St. Mark Square during a high-water (Acqua Alta) alert in Venice on October 29, 2018. - The flooding, caused by a convergence of high tides and a strong Sirocco wind, reached around 150 centimetres on October 29, 2018. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
People walk on a footbridge in the flooded Riva degli Schiavoni during a high-water (Acqua Alta) alert in Venice on October 29, 2018. - The flooding, caused by a convergence of high tides and a strong Sirocco wind, reached around 150 centimetres on October 29, 2018. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - People walk in the flooded Riva degli Schiavoni in front of the San Giorgio church during a high-water (Acqua Alta) alert in Venice on October 29, 2018. - The flooding, caused by a convergence of high tides and a strong Sirocco wind, reached around 150 centimetres on October 29, 2018. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
Tourists walk in the flooded street near Rialto Bridge during a acqua-alta (high-water) alert in Venice on October 29, 2018. - The flooding, caused by a convergence of high tides and a strong Sirocco wind, reached around 150 centimetres on October 29. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
People walk in a flooded St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, Friday, March 30, 2018. High tides have flooded Venice, leading Venetians and tourists to don high boots and use wooden walkways to cross the square and other areas under water. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
FILE - In this Friday, March 30, 2018 file photo, people sit in a flooded St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, as high tides inundated the city. Across the globe seas have risen about three inches in 2018 since 1993. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni, File)
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Residents and businesses typically reinforce their doors with metal or wooden panels to prevent water from entering the bottom floors, but photos on social media showed shop owners using water pumps this time to try to protect their wares.

Much of Italy is under alert for flooding from heavy rains, a problem exacerbated by a lack of maintenance of the country's many river beds. High winds toppled trees that killed passers-by in four incidents in Naples, Lazio and Liguria.

Officials closed major tourist attractions in Rome, including the Colosseum and Roman Forum, early because of heavy rains.

Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia says flooding this week could reach the levels of the 1966 flood that struck both Venice and Florence. The Interior Ministry urged officials in storm-struck regions, about half of the country, to consider closing schools and offices for a second day Tuesday.

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