Venice on 'code red' as city sees worst flooding since 2012

Tourists wade under arches next to the flooded St Mark's Square

Tourists wade under arches next to the flooded St Mark's Square Credit AFP

In the canal city of Venice, rising waters flooded many of its famed squares and walkways, with officials saying most of the city is now under water. (Andrea Merola/ANSA via AP) A couple walk in the flooded Saint Mark Square during a period of seasonal high water in Venice, Italy October 29, 2018.

The death toll from fierce storms battering Italy has risen to nine, civil protection authorities said Tuesday, as wild weather caused schools to close and trapped dozens of tourists in the north of the country.

Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro said a series of underwater barriers being erected in the lagoon would have prevented the flooding. The last time levels topped 160 centimeters, which had been forecast, was in December 1979.

A project for this, nicknamed Moses, is said to be in the pipeline, but it is being severely delayed by cost overruns and corruption scandals.

Almost all of northern Italy was on alert due to the violent storms with wind gusts up to 100 kilometres per hour and the rainfall in some places equivalent to the amount of rain that falls over several months.

Authorities Tuesday reported a woman died when her home was engulfed by a mudslide in the northern region of Trentino, a man was killed in the northeastern region of Veneto by a falling tree, and a firefighter died during relief operations in South Tyrol. Transport officials closed the water bus system except to outlying islands because of the emergency.

Much of northern Italy remains under red alert today, after two days of severe storms in which much of the country was lashed by torrential rains. That happens four times a year in Venice on average. In 1966, when floods swept through the country, famously devastating Florence's historic centre, the waters reached 194cm in Venice.

Officials also closed major tourist attractions, including the Colosseum and Roman Forum.

The wild weather, caused by a convergence of high tides and strong winds, forced caused schools to close, while Rome and several other regions halted classes due to the weather. Local media said a yacht owned by the family of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was one of those badly damaged.

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