Italy on Thursday declared a state of emergency for Venice after an exceptional tide surged through churches, shops and homes, causing millions of euros worth of damage to the UNESCO city.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the Cabinet had approved the state of emergency and ordered the immediate release of €20 million (US$22 million) in funds for the most urgent interventions in the devastated city after Tuesday's flooding.
Despite the emergency, tourists larked around in the flooded St Mark's Square in the sunshine, snapping selfies in their neon plastic boots and taking advantage of a respite in bad weather which has driven the high tides.
Sirens warning of fresh flooding rang through the canal city early on Thursday but the water level remained low compared to Tuesday's tide, the highest in 50 years.
Conte, who has called the flooding a blow to the heart of our country, met Venice's mayor and emergency services before jumping in a speed boat to visit businesses and locals affected by the tide.
Residents whose houses had been hit would immediately get up to €5,000 in government aid, while restaurant and shop owners could receive up to €20,000 and apply for more later, he said.
Several museums remained closed to the public on Thursday.
As authorities assessed the extent of the damage to Venice's cultural treasures, such as St Mark's Basilica where water invaded the crypt, locals were defiant. Many stopped for their habitual coffees at flooded bars, drinking their espresso while standing in several inches of water.
Tuesday's acqua alta, or high waters, submerged around 80 per cent of the city, officials said. Only once since records began in 1923 has the water crept even higher, reaching 1.94 meters in 1966.
Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi arrived for a private tour of the damage sustained to the basilica, while rival leader of the Italian right Matteo Salvini was due to drop by for the same on Friday.
Many, including Venice's mayor, have blamed the disaster on global warming and warned that Italy - a country prone to natural disasters - must wake up to the risks posed by ever more volatile seasons.
We need to be resilient and adapt. We need a policy that looks at the climate through completely different eyes, Environment Minister Sergio Costa said on Thursday.
Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has estimated the damage to Venice at hundreds of millions of euros.
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