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Flooded Venice hit by new 5ft tidal surge as state of emergency declared

The flooded Italian city of Venice has been hit by a new 160cm high tide in a crisis which is costing millions of euros.

Tourist magnet St Mark's Square has been forced to close and schools are shut for a third consecutive day.

A state of emergency was declared earlier in the week in the city, which is an Unesco World Heritage site.

High winds in the Adriatic drove the water into the city and at least two people have died.

The Grand Canal's water taxis - known as the vaporetti - are not running.

Water has reached thigh-height in the flooded shopping arcades by St Mark's Basilica.

Sirens blasted out to warn residents and businesses of rising water levels.

Flooded streets in Venice (Getty Images)

Sandbags had been placed around shops and businesses in the city as pumps were brought in to try and quell the water.

At the height of the tidal surge on Tuesday, water levels reached 187cm, the highest level in more than five decades.

Shops, monuments and properties were damaged as more than 80 per cent of the city was affected by flooding.

Residents who have been affected by flooding will get up to £4,300 compensation, with a higher rate of compensation for businesses.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who visited Venice on Wednesday, said: "It hurts to see the city so damaged, its artistic heritage compromised, its commercial activities on its knees."

Although the population is relatively small with around 50,000 residents, it has about 20 million visitors annually.

Shops, monuments and properties were damaged as more than 80 per cent of the city was affected by flooding (Getty Images)

The tides have been worsened by winds blowing in from Africa.

There are concerns global warming is making the floods more severe and more frequent.

The Italian Government said the city's elaborate flood defence system will not be operational until 2021.

The waterfront area of Fondamenta Zattere, which is popular with tourists, is under water.

Venice is made up of more than 100 islands inside a lagoon off the north Italian coast, which is prone to floodign.

The Mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, said the flood had been caused by climate change and the flood's impact had been huge and had left a "permanent mark".

The view of St Mark's Square during the flooding (REUTERS)

He urged the Italian Government to push ahead with the Mose project - a hydraulic barrier system to protect the lagoon from rising sea levels and winter storms.

The Mose acronym comes from Modulo Sperimentale Eletrromeccanico is deliberately meant to be reminiscent of Moses, the parter of the sea from the Bible.

When a storm surge arrives, the barriers are designed to inflate with air and rise up and create a makeshift wall to protect the city.

In 1966, the previous high tide was recorded of 194cm. When water levels reach 80cm, St Mark's Square becomes flooded.

There's been immeasurable damage to the foundations and structural integrity of the old buildings, including St Mark's Basilica.

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