Venice tests system of 78 inflatable flood barriers

James Marshall
July 11, 2020

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte inflated the bright yellow barriers at a ceremony on Friday by pressing a button to activate compressors to pump air into them. But it is also the Italian spelling of the Old Testament figure Moses, for whom the Red Sea is said to have parted.

An anti-flood system that was supposed to start working in Venice in 2011 - and could have protected the iconic city from more than a billion dollars in water damage previous year - is now getting a trial run.

Mr Conte acknowledged the "disgraceful" corruption that had dogged the project, but said it was now time for everyone, including protesters, to look forwards."We all have to hope that it works", he said. After high-tide danger ceases, sea water is pumped into the gates to make them heavy so they can be lowered.

The project is now set to be finished in December 2021; though the prime minister expressed hope it could be ready by slightly sooner.

Inaugurated in 2003, the project was mired in corruption.

In 2014, investigators uncovered a trail of bribes and kickbacks. In 2014, The Associated Press reported, investigators revealed a system of bribes and kickbacks - almost $6.5 billion overall has been poured into the planning and construction of the anti-flood system.

Yet environmentalists have opposed the project, afraid it will disturb the lagoon's delicate ecology. Some environmentalists claim that because the world's sea levels are rising in general, the barriers will become redundant as waters rise higher than anything the system is created to hold back.

Conte praised the project, saying it was created to safeguard Venice's architectural, artistic and historical heritage.

Venice tested its long-delayed flood barriers, in a public demonstration of the strength of the defences months after rising tidal waters swamped its historic canals, squares and palaces.

Floodwaters poured into the renowned St. Mark's Basilica as well as into homes, hotels, shops and restaurants. City officials estimated flood damage to be roughly one billion euros.

Once operational, the Mose system is created to protect Venice from tides of up to 3 metres, well beyond the current record, but some experts worry it will be overwhelmed by the sort of rising seas that recent climate-change models have predicted. In the November flood, the tide surged to 1.87 metres.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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