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'Venice Is on Its Knees' From Second-Worst Flooding in City's History

A tourist pushes her floating luggage in a flooded St. Mark's Square, in Venice, Italy, Nov. 13, 2019.

Report updated 5:45 p.m., Nov. 13, 2019.

VENICE, ITALY - "Venice is on its knees," Mayor Luigi Brugnaro declared as the lagoon city was inundated by flooding caused by the highest tide in 50 years.

Brugnaro on Wednesday declared a state of emergency as 85% of the city was flooded.

The water reached 1.87 meters above average sea level Tuesday, the second-highest level ever recorded in the city and just 7 centimeters below the historic flood in 1966.

More flooding driven by strong winds and storms is expected Thursday.

A man in his 70s died when he was electrocuted while trying to start pumps at his home on the island of Pellestrina, officials said.

The crypt of the iconic St. Mark's Basilica was flooded for just the sixth time in 1,200 years.

Brugnaro said it would cost hundreds of millions of euros to repair the damage across the city. He told reporters at a news conference that the damage was "enormous."

General view of flooding in Venice, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019. (Sabina Castelfranco/VOA)
General view of flooding in Venice, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019. (Sabina Castelfranco/VOA)

Famous tourist spots like St. Mark's Square and La Fenice Opera House were under several feet of water.

The city famous for its labyrinth of canals often experiences severe tidal flooding, called acqua alta, in the winter when strong winds funnel water in from the northern Adriatic Sea.

The mayor blamed climate change for the ever-worsening flooding. He and other officials called for the completion of a long-delayed project to construct offshore barriers.

The flood-protection system, known by the acronym MOSE, has been delayed by cost overruns and corruption scandals.