Venice under water for second day

Venice was under water again on Tuesday after suffering its worst flooding in 22 years, as a new tide left the Renaissance city awash up to about thigh level.

On Monday the "acqua alta" (high water) reached 1.56 metres, the highest level since 1986, before beginning to recede.

Lower parts of the tourist mecca, including the world-famous St Mark's Square, remained under water at midday on Tuesday after reaching a high of 1.02 metres, according to the ANSA news agency.

The city is expected to return to normal in the early evening, its tide monitoring centre said.

Monday's drenching reopened debate over an elaborate project to place hinged panels at the inlets leading into the lagoon.

Mayor Massimo Cacciari is among critics of the so-called Moses Project, which was launched in 2003 and is not expected to reach completion until 2012.

Under the scheme, 78 steel panels will lie on the seabed until activated when high tide is more than 110 centimetres above normal.

Compressed air will then force the panels to rise up on their hinges, forming a slanting barrier to the incoming tide from the Adriatic Sea.

Another approach under consideration is to raise the city's buildings.

Under Operation "Rialto", piston-supported poles would be placed beneath each structure and gradually lift buildings by up to a metre.

Venice was flooded 50 times between 1993 and 2002, but by far the worst incident was on November 4, 1966, when the city was submerged by 1.94 metres of water amid catastrophic flooding throughout Italy.

More recently, in February 1986, levels reached 1.58 metres above normal. The last time the waters passed 1.60 metres was in 1979 when they reached 1.66 metres.

In April 2007, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) warned that Venice was one of its designated World Heritage sites that was threatened by climate change.