Venice set to activate Mose flood barrier as northern Italy braces for severe storms

Venice set to activate Mose flood barrier as northern Italy braces for severe storms
Part of the Mose barrier being raised in Venice's lagoon during previous test. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
Venice is poised to use its controversial Mose flood barrier system for the first time this weekend, with stormy weather forecast to cause unusually high tides.

Officials said on Friday that the barrier system would be activated in its first real test if the high tide, or “acqua alta”, hits expected levels on Saturday.

“We are on red alert for bad weather, Let's hope it doesn't rain as expected,” Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia said on Friday

READ ALSO: OPINION: After flooding and coronavirus, is it time Venice stopped relying on tourism?

Zaia said he'd spoken to Mose Commissioner Elisabetta Spitz, who confrmed the gates could be activated on Saturday, the Ansa news agency reports.

The whole region of Veneto is now on alert for heavy rain and high winds, along with many other parts of northern Italy.

In Venice, the tide at sea reached 102 centimeters on Friday, and “right now the sirocco wind is increasing which would also affect the maximum level in the lagoon,” Ansa writes.

On Saturday, the tide is forecast to reach 130-135 centimeters at noon, which could reportedly trigger the emergency procedure for the raising of the Mose barriers for the first time

While this is lower than the 187cm tides which caused devastation in the lagoon city last November, it is still high enough to be problematic for residents.

Flooding in Venice in November 2019. Photo: AFP

High tides are a regular occurance in Venice, and are the reason the Mose flood barrier was built.

Venice's residents are used to the “acqua alta” regularly flooding streets, shops and hotels as well as the famous St. Mark's Square. However November's levels were the highest seen since 1966, and were far more than the city is able to cope with.

IN PHOTOS: Venice left submerged as exceptional tide sweeps through canal city

It's hoped that the Mose barrier could put a stop to the worst of the flooding and prevent a repeat of November's severe flooding in future.

The system of flood defences, comprised of 78 gates that can be raised to protect Venice's lagoon during high tides, is one of the biggest civil engineering projects in the world.

Mose has so far cost upwards of 7 billion euros, and has long been mired in cost issues, delays, corruption scandals, and criticism.

After construction work on the barrier began in 2003, the original completion date was set for 2014, then 2016. After tests in 2019 revealed worrying vibrations, and parts of the barrier were found to have rusted, there were fears it may not be completed by 2021 as hoped.

And some experts have raised concerns that the barrier's design means it won't actually protect the city.

However, the first full test of the barrier system in July 2020 was successful, local authorities said.

Technicians at work in the Mose control room in Venice. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP


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