The highest tide in decades has submerged more than 85% of Venice in floodwaters, causing catastrophic damage to the historic Italian lagoon city and its monuments.
"Venice is on its knees," Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said on Twitter on Wednesday. "The Basilica of St. Mark's has suffered serious damage like the entire city and the islands."
Brugnaro, who has blamed climate change for Venice's second-worst flooding on record, declared a state of emergency and said the city will "need everyone's help to overcome these days that are putting us to the test."
The flooding, prompted by strong winds that pushed a high tide into the city, has caused at least one death — an elderly man was electrocuted while trying to repair a hydraulic pump on the island of Pellestrina — closed schools, theaters, and conservatories; submerged the crypt at St. Mark's Basilica; and sunk motorboats and ferries, a critical mode of transportation.
Venice was built on a series of small islands in a shallow lagoon and has slowly been sinking, a situation exacerbated by rising sea levels as a result of climate change. The flooding this week is the highest recorded in the city since an unprecedented flood in 1966.
"I have never seen something like what I saw yesterday afternoon [Tuesday] at St. Mark's Square," said Venice’s patriarch, Monsignor Francesco Moraglia, according to CNN. "There were waves as if we were at the beach."