70% of city now covered by floodwater

As a prime tourist attraction and a major centre for boating, including visiting superyachts and cruise ships, the traditional gondoliers in Venice have been hard hit by the floods currently affecting the city. Some 70% of this famous location is now covered by floodwater, the worst for 50 years, and the key attraction of St Mark’s Square has been closed.

Many gondolas have been damaged and because of the falling number of gondola repair boatyards, it is envisaged that it will be some considerable time before the fleet is back to full strength.

Aldo Reato, a former head of the Venice Gondoliers Association, was quoted in Britain’s The Times newspaper, saying: “Gondolas were smashed against their wooden jetties, which splintered and were swept away. Others were thrown onto dry land and we are looking at a €500,000 repair bill.”

According to Andrea Balbi, the current head of the association, 17 of the hand-built boats by local craftsmen, valued at up to €35,000 each, broke from their mooring and were cast up on the shore close to St Mark’s Square. In all some 80 of the city’s total fleet of over 430 gondolas were damaged.

The gondoliers were among many Venetians who have suffered because of the floods. The floodwater rose to 187cm which is 7cm short of the 1996 record. With further rain expected today, the flood level is expected to be around 160cm.