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Defiant Venetians vow to stay despite flood devastation

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By Reuters
Defiant Venetians vow to stay despite flood devastation
A view of the flooded St. Mark's Square during a period of seasonal high water in Venice, Italy, November 14, 2019. REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri   -   Copyright  MANUEL SILVESTRI(Reuters)

By Emily G Roe and Gabriele Pileri

ROME (Reuters) – Venetians on Thursday were adamant, despite millions of euros of damage from days of flooding, that they are determined to remain in their lagoon city no matter what.

Matteo Rado would usually spend his day looking after his restaurant buzzing with tourists enjoying the view of the main waterfront a stone’s throw from Saint Mark’s Basilica.

But on Thursday the Hotel Savoia & Jolanda restaurant remained closed, taking stock after being battered by the second highest tide recorded in the city’s history, causing at least 70,000 euros ($77,000) of damage to the business.

Like many other lifelong Venetians, Rado is defiant, saying he will stay in his beloved city even if the water continues to rise.

“Obviously we are still counting the extent of the damage and we are still try to fix parts of the electricity,” Rado told Reuters. “We threw away around 1,000 euros ($1,100) of food because it was all in a large fridge that filled with salt water,” he said.

But has he considered giving up and moving out?

“To say: ‘that’s enough of Venice’? Never.”

Local authorities declared the city a disaster zone on Wednesday after “apocalyptic” floods inundated its historic basilica, squares and hundreds of centuries-old buildings.

Central government declared a state of emergency for Venice on Thursday, allocating 20 million euros ($22 million) to address the immediate damage.

But many in the local community play down the problems.

“The sea is our life, and also the floods,” explained hotel manager Jacopo Derai.

“It’s already over from what I see here, we had a hard time of course, but it’s not forever, it’s for a few hours, and of course we need to consider that this could happen again so we need to be prepared – we need to go on,” he said.

Further along the lagoon, bar owner Begnamino Dal Mas says living with the threat of floods, or “high water” as the Italians call it, is a part of Venetian life.

“We have to live with this. But when it is too high, it starts to be quite difficult,” he said.

Even as cleaning up is taking place, one eye is kept on the next high tide.

On Friday another flood is possible, but the Venetians are preparing to brave the storm and get back onto their feet – whatever the weather.

(Additional reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Giles Elgood)