Venice flooded again due to failing procedure
Despite the recently finished MOSE flood barrier San Marco square flooded again the 9th of December. This time due to a failing procedure. According the weather forecasts the sea level would only rise 125 centimetres, but at its peak the sea rose 145 centimetres. The system is activated at 130 centimetres, so the national government did not act. The result was disastrous. Venice was flooded again.
The decision to activate the MOSE flood barrier must be made 48 hours before the high water arrives. This is partly because of shipping. The water-filled caissons of the barrier are designed to be raised within 30 minutes. The Municipality of Venice cannot manage the defence system. That responsibility rests with the national government in Rome. According to Mayor Brugnaro it would be better to transfer the responsibility, because these decisions should be made quickly. It is easier to judge the situation locally.
There is an important economic motive for not activating the dam too easily: as long as the flood defence is in operation, cargo ships cannot enter in the Venetian harbour. Locals want to activate the dam at a lower threshold from now on. But for San Marco square problems are still not solved, because the famous central square is one of the lowest places in the city. The square and the church will need their own protection against floods.
In October 2020 the barrier passed the fire for the first time. The construction of the MOSE barrier took a total of 17 years, and its construction led to multiple scandals. It has costed about 6 billion euros. The costs ultimately turned out to be more than four billion euros higher than the 1.6 billion euros initially budgeted.
When the barrier finally did the job many Venetians posted on social media that the functioning of the flood barrier is the first good news of 2020. Everyone involved was particularly anxious as to whether the 78 steel doors would rise from the sea floor to protect Venice. But they did. Now people are frustrated and disappointed.