A long-delayed barrier meant to keep Venice dry from floodwaters passed its first major test on Saturday, keeping the historic city dry as a major storm system slammed Europe.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wrote on Facebook the Mose flood project protected Venice on a “very important day for the city.”
“The rain on Venice triggered the alarm for high water,” he wrote. “The Mose barrier system was promptly started. In a short time the gates were raised and the risk of high water was averted.”
VENICE FINALLY TESTS MOSES ANTI-FLOOD SYSTEM AFTER YEARS OF REPORTED CORRUPTION, DELAYS
The flood barrier consists of 78 bright yellow barriers that guard the entrance to the lagoon in Venice.
The movable flood gates are attached by hinges to cement blocks on the seabed along three openings from the sea into the lagoon. After high-tide danger ceases, seawater is pumped into the gates to make them heavy so they can be lowered.
The barriers are designed to protect Venice from tides as high as 10 feet.
City officials had forecast a tide on Saturday of 4.27 feet, well below the devastating 6.5 feet tide that battered Venice last November, but enough to leave low-lying areas underwater, according to Reuters.
Officials had directed workers to place raised walkways in vulnerable places, including in St. Mark’s Square, after expecting the worse.
But, according to Italian news agency ASNA, most of the city remained dry with Piazza San Marco avoiding high water.
VENICE MAY PUT GLASS WALL AROUND ST. MARK’S BASILICA TO CURB FUTURE FLOOD DAMAGE
“The test went well,” the superintendent of public works Cinzia Zincone told ANSA.
Last November, Venice suffered its worst flooding in more than 50 years.
Floodwaters invaded St. Mark’s Basilica and also poured into homes, hotels, stores and restaurants in the city, which lives off tourism. City officials estimated the total flood damage to be more than a billion dollars.
Engineers had promised the flood project would protect the city, but skeptics had questioned if the project would be a success.
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The project, which was inaugurated in 2003 and was supposed to be finished by 2011, was mired in corruption. In 2014, The Associated Press reported, investigators revealed a system of bribes and kickbacks — nearly $6.5 billion overall has been poured into the planning and construction of the anti-flood system.
Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro raised a glass in celebration after the city was left dry, saying “we stopped the sea.”
“Lots of bad things have happened here, but now something wonderful has happened,” he said.
Brugnaro shared a video of the barriers holding up against the tide.
Flooding in Venice is caused by a combination of rising sea levels and high tides from climate change as well as land subsidence that has caused the ground level of the city to sink.
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The major storm system that swept across Europe spawned devastating flooding in the mountains regions of France and Italy, killing two with eight still missing.
In Italy, a firefighter was killed during a rescue operation in the mountainous northern region of Val d’Aosta. A search team also found a body in the Piedmont region’s Vercelli province, where a man had been swept away by floodwaters.
Italian firefighters also rescued 25 people trapped on the French side of a high mountain pass due to the flooding.
Fox News’ Greg Norman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.