Venice floods: St Mark's Square re-opens a day after being submerged - but city still on high alert

16 November 2019, 13:50 | Updated: 16 November 2019, 16:29

St Mark's Square began welcoming back tourists on Saturday, a day after exceptionally high tidal waters forced its closure.

The city remains on high alert with fears that winds will propel tidal waters and further damage the already-devastated historic centre.

Despite the area re-opening and the sunnier skies, waters began rising again in St Mark's Square on Saturday afternoon, with Sunday forecast to be worse.

Sky's Europe correspondent, Michelle Clifford, reported from the submerged square on Friday, showing that the waters were almost at waist height - a stark contrast to Saturday, where tourists were able to walk freely around the square.

The tide had been expected to peak at 1.15m (3.7ft) above sea level by Saturday lunch time - in normal conditions, levels of 80-90cm are generally seen as high but manageable.

The city's mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, estimated that damages to the city would reach at least €1bn (£860m), but a final total will not become clear until homes, businesses and shops dry out.

Throughout the week, experts have been racing to stop the rising salt-waters causing damage to precious art work on walls throughout Venice.

Teams of people, including security forces, have been deployed in an effort to assess the state of art treasures around the city - a job expected to take some time.

Mayor Brugnaro has blamed climate change for the severe flooding, which swamped the city's historic basilica, squares and centuries-old buildings.

In interviews in local newspapers, he said: "Venice is once again being watched by the world and it needs to show that it can succeed and pick itself back up."

He also announced that the city was setting up programmes that would help people who have been affected by the flooding, suggesting that families could get up to €5,000 (£5,800) and businesses receiving up to €20,000 (£23,350) in help.

Mr Brugnaro added that those who had suffered more serious losses from the floods may qualify for compensation that covers up to 70% of their damages.

Venice's long-awaited flood defences have been under construction since 2003, after corruption scandals, financing problems and environmental concerns led to the project being delayed.