Venice was inundated by an exceptional high tide Monday, putting three-quarters of the famed Italian lagoon city under water as large swaths 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 more than 5 feet before receding, the AP reports. 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. Much of the rest 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. (Researchers say that after years of stability, Venice is slowly sinking again.)