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Cultural Institutions Close as Venice Endures Worst Flooding in Fifty Years

The mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, has declared a state of emergency after the Italian city became submerged in floodwaters, the result of severe weather and an exceptionally high tide. According to The Guardian, two people have died—one man was electrocuted while using an electric water pump and another was found dead in his home—and the record water levels, which are only second to those of the devastating flood of 1966, have already caused hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage.

The conditions in Venice forced schools, shops and other businesses, and arts institutions to close. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, the Pinault Collection’s two locations, and the Venice Biennale’s main exhibition venues and national pavilions in the Giardini and Arsenale have all shuttered. Various historic squares, alleyways, and cultural landmarks such as the iconic Basilica of Saint Mark’s are underwater, sparking conservation concerns, and at least three of Venice's vaporetti, public waterbuses, have sunk. According to the New York Times, in some areas, the water rose to around six feet by 11 PM on Tuesday.  

“This is the result of climate change,” said Brugnaro, who is asking for governmental assistance and encouraging local businesses to post images of the natural disaster on social media. He described the damage as a wound that is “going to leave an indelible mark” on the city. Brugnaro also called for the construction of a barrier system to protect the city from flooding to be completed. Dubbed MOSE, the project has been in progress since 2003, but its completion has been delayed due to scandals and soaring costs. Though water levels are projected to subside, they will inevitably rise again.