Tourists stuck as floods hit Venice

Venice was nearly completely flooded on Monday, with rain-soaked tourists evacuated from St Mark's Square as fierce storms lashed Italy.

The exceptional tide also forced the temporary suspension of public transport ferries within Venice, said local transport company ACTV on Twitter.

The city frequently floods when high winds push in water from the lagoon, but today's levels are exceptional and forecast to rise even higher, to almost 63 inches by mid-afternoon.

In Venice, rain-soaked tourists were barred from St. Mark's Square where local authorities said the "acqua alta" (high water) peaked at 156 centimetres by early afternoon. The peak level was the highest reached since December 2008, according to Venice statistics.

Photos from the Italian tourist mecca show visitors and locals wading through numerous city's most notable sites, including Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge.

Yesterday marathon runners were forced to wade through ankle-deep water in Venice after high tides flooded the city yesterday.

Five people have died across Italy as the country faced extreme weather conditions and the city of Venice was hit by exceptional flooding.

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The city has been working on an ambitious engineering project ― nicknamed "Project Moses" ― to protect Venice from future floodwaters, but the effort has been plagued by cost overruns and a corruption scandal since it began in 2003. High winds toppled trees that killed passers-by in three accidents in Naples and Lazio.

Speaking on Monday, Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said a series of underwater barriers would have prevented the rising water levels.

The flooding, caused by a convergence of high tides and a strong Sirocco wind, reached around 150 centimetres. That happens, on average, four times a year in Venice.

Much of Italy is under flood alert due to heavy rains, a problem exacerbated by a lack of maintenance of the country's many river beds.

Dozens of trees were reported uprooted across Rome and many parks and tourist sites were closed, including the Roman Forum and Colosseum.

Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia says flooding this week could reach the levels of the 1966 flood that struck both Venice and Florence. In a message on Instagram, he called off schools in the region for a second day on Tuesday.

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