75% of Venice under water after unusually high tide strikes famed city

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

Residents and visitors were wading through waist-high water in St Mark's Square before the mayor gave orders to evacuate the area. The victims also included a woman who was buried by mud when a landslide invaded her home near Trento in northern Italy and a man who was slammed against rocks while wind surfing in Emilia-Romagna.

Venice frequently floods when high winds push in water from the lagoon, but Monday's levels were exceptional. Most of the city's famous water bus system was also closed down.

Much of Italy is under flooding alerts following heavy rains on Sunday and Monday, with high winds and toppled trees leading to at least five deaths.

Experts say there are three main reasons for high water in the city: the rising floor in the lagoon caused by incoming silt; the undermining of the islands by the extraction of methane gas in the sea off Venice; and the overall increase in sea levels caused by global warming.

The city, famous for its canals and gondolas and lovely palaces and churches, is frequently overwhelmed by water in the period from October to December, but Monday's flooding was particularly heavy. The project, nicknamed Moses, is long overdue, beset by cost overruns and corruption scandals. If the tide levels are verified, the reading will be the highest since December 1979.

Two people were killed when a tree fell on their vehicle not far from Rome, and a young man in the Naples region also died after being hit by a falling tree, according to authorities. That happens, on average, four times a year in Venice.

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Locals and tourists have been sharing pictures and videos of a flooded Venice, as they waddle in knee deep water and struggle to walk its streets.

Around 101 people were killed by the 1966 flood of the Arno and millions of masterpieces of art and rare books were also destroyed.

Luca Zaia, head of the Veneto region, said the situation could be worse than when huge floods struck in 2010.

Officials closed major tourist attractions in Rome, including the Colosseum and Roman Forum, early because of heavy rains.

The agency on Tuesday declared the highest level of alert on several regions, mainly in the North, where storms were expected to continue all day.

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