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7 major Venice tourist sites damaged by historic flooding

A tourist takes a photo from the flooded embankment by the Rialto bridge (Marco Bertorello /AFP via Getty Images)

Venice has experienced some of the worst flooding in its history this week, with flood levels of over six feet submerging the city’s most revered and trafficked historical sites.

High tides have washed over 85 percent of the one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, causing hundreds of millions of euros’ worth of damage, with shops, buildings and hundreds of pieces of infrastructure being flooded. The mayor has called the acqua alta or high water — a “blow to the heart of the city,” and a state of emergency has been declared ahead of more expected flooding, according to Washington Post reports.

It has been over 50 years since Venice has seen flooding this severe. The flood of 1966 saw a deluge raise the canals to a height of 6 feet 4 inches (1.94 meters), leaving thousands without homes and causing extensive damage to some of the city’s most precious art. Italian leaders blamed the effects of climate change on the rising ocean waters and swollen rivers that lead into the city, with the mayor saying on Twitter the city is “on its knees.”

Here are some of the famous landmarks and tourist favorites that have been affected by the high tides during the current flood:

St. Mark’s Square

Tourists take pictures in the flooded St. Mark's Square. (Manuel Silvestri/Reuters)

Known as Piazza San Marco in Italian, St. Mark’s Square is a prime attraction. Millions of tourists from over the world come to stand and take selfies in the plaza that’s rumored to have been called by Napoleon “the drawing room of Europe.” Water levels have turned the square into a glorified pool, and indeed, one man was seen swimming near St. Mark’s Basilica.

St. Mark’s Basilica

Pedestrians walk past St. Mark's Basilica after an exceptional overnight "Alta Acqua." (Marco Bertorello /AFP via Getty Images)

St. Mark’s Basilica, completed in the 11th century, is Venice’s most popular site, drawing tourists to its Italo-Byzantine architecture and connection to the Catholic Church. The crypt beneath the church has been inundated with water for only the second time in its history. Many fear that the internal flooding and damage to some of the external windows isn’t the worst of it. The structure has long caused worry over flood damage to the columns that support the historical church.

Banksy’s ‘shipwrecked girl’ mural

Banksy's migrant child mural submerged in high water. (Rosanna Codino/EPA-EFE/REX /Shutterstock)

The guerrilla artist Banksy painted the image of a young refugee holding up a pink flare in May as a response to “Barca Nostra,” a recovered shipwreck dedicated to the hundreds of migrants who died crossing the Mediterranean Sea in 2015. The artwork overlooks the Rio di Ca Foscari canal, one of the highly trafficked spots along the Grand Canal in the heart of the city, which suffered the bulk of the flooding.

Gritti Palace

A flooded room in the flooded Gritti Palace. (Marco Bertorello / AFP via Getty Images)

Along the Grand Canal, Gritti Palace is famous for playing host to royal visitors to Venice, politicians and other celebrities. Once a private residence, it has now been converted into a luxury hotel. Flooding this week led to an evacuation of guests there. Many of the decorative rugs and chairs had to be stacked in piles to escape the reach of the exceptionally high water.

Libreria Acqua Alta

A worker from Acqua Alta works after heavy flooding caused damage to the premises. (Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters)

Years of constant flooding inspired Libreria Acqua Alta, or High Water Bookshop, to store its vast collection in bathtubs, waterproof bins and, notably, a full-size gondola. But even this bookstore built with flood potential in mind couldn’t have predicted the events of this week. Hundreds of books were lost in the shop hailed by tourists as one of the most beautiful in the world, causing much dismay in the community. “We expect high water, but not this high,” one of the owners said.

Grand Canal

The flooded embankment by the Hotel Rialto (L) and taxi boats on the Grand Canal channel. (Marco Bertorello / AFP via Getty Images)

A major water-traffic corridor, the Grand Canal is one of the more recognizable landmarks, winding its way past Doge’s Palace, the Royal Gardens and the Rialto Bridge. The combination of a full moon and strong, so-called sirocco winds have pushed seawater higher in the city’s canals, trapping it as the tides continue to rise. Ferryboats and gondolas have been overturned as many of the new flood barriers designed to protect the ever-sinking city have been overrun.

Doge’s Palace

People wearing thigh high boots cross flooded St. Mark's square by the Doge's palace. (Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty Images)

This historical museum offers visitors history and insight into “the city of the lagoon,” along with some of Venice’s most dazzling design and architecture. Its central geography makes it one of the must-see attractions for thousands of tourists who make the trip every year. Videos on social media showed deep water flowing near one of the city’s main thoroughfares, and next to the palace, large waves surged over the stone sidewalks hammering boats that had been moored outside.

Chico Harlan, Stefano Pitrelli and Andrew Freedman contributed to this report.

Read more:

Venice is underwater. Other major European cities could be next.

Venice-bound cruise ships could be forced out of the city center soon

6 questions about carbon offsets for flights, answered

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