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Rome

Venice state of emergency declared

First funds for Veneto earmarked after deadly floods

Venice state of emergency declared

Rome, November 14 - The cabinet on Thursday approved the declaration of a state of emergency for flood-devastated Venice and other parts of Veneto, earmarking 20 million euros for the first intervention in the weather-torn northeastern Italian region. Premier Giuseppe Conte and his ministers approved a decree declaring Venice to be in a state of emergency after floods brought the city to its knees this week, killing two people. Conte tweeted: "State of emergency for #Venice deliberated in cabinet. 20 mn earmarked, the first funds for the most urgent interventions, in support of the city and the population. Working on the plan for compensation for private citizens, shopkeepers and traders, and to refinance the special law for Venice". "This will make it possible to assign the first financial aid to pay for the emergency spending and restore services," Conte said earlier in the day after a meeting in the city with Mayor Luigi Brugnaro, Veneto Governor Luca Zaia and Infrastructure Minister Paola De Micheli. The devastation caused by the flooding has led to controversy about the fact that the MOSE flood barrier system is still not operative after decades of work and billions of euros of investment. "Our commitment to Venice is total," Conte told ANSA on the way out of his hotel on Thursday. "The situation in this unique city is dramatic. "Lots of money has been spent," he added regarding MOSE, which has been hit by delays and a corruption scandal. "It's on the final straight and now it must be completed and maintained". De Micheli told Radio Capital that the aim was to complete the project by the end of 2021, while adding that "I hope that it is partially in use before then". The government on Thursday named former state property agency Demanio chief Elisabetta Spitz as new extraordinary commissioner for the MOSE project. The MOSE system must be finished despite its being already obsolete, Foreign Minister and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) leader Luigi Di Maio said. Projects like MOSE, which are currently due to be up and running in 2021, were "born old and stuffed with kickbacks and corruption but now, although it isn't the best possible solution, it must be completed as soon as possible to protect Venice immediately", he said. "We won't pretend not to see where the blame lies," he said. In September the updated 2018 balance sheet of the consortium building MOSE said the flood barriers will be handed over to the city council at the end of 2021 to protect the lagoon city from acqua alta or high water levels such as the 187 cm tide that hit Monday, the highest in 50 years. The innovative and complex system of barriers, which cost 74 million euros in 2018 alone, will be completed at the end of June 2020, ushering in the final phase of testing. Launched in 2003 and originally slated for completion in 2016, the MOSE project to build a system of retractable dikes has been at the centre of a slew of corruption scandals. MOSE stands for MOdulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico, or Experimental Electromechanical Module, and echoes Moses of parting the Red Sea fame. The 5.5 billion euro (up by 1.3 billion form the first estimate) project is intended to protect the city of Venice and the Venetian Lagoon from flooding. The project is an integrated system consisting of rows of mobile gates installed at the Lido, Malamocco, and Chioggia inlets that are able to isolate the Venetian Lagoon temporarily from the Adriatic Sea during acqua alta high tides. Together with other measures, such as coastal reinforcement, the raising of quaysides, and the paving and improvement of the lagoon, MOSE is designed to protect Venice and the lagoon from tides of up to 3 metres (9.8 ft). The Consorzio Venezia Nuova is responsible for the work on behalf of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport - Venice Water Authority. Construction began simultaneously in 2003 at all three lagoon inlets, and as of June 2013, more than 85% of the project had been completed.

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