Environment: Venice Fights Off the Flood Tides

A giant bulwark rises in the Adriatic as a barrier to acqua alta

The city of Venice, built on an archipelago in a 212-sq.-mi. lagoon, has long been perched on the edge of disaster. The magnitude of the threat became clear on Nov. 4, 1966, when a storm on the Adriatic Sea inundated St. Mark's Square in nearly 4 ft. of water and pounded the facade of its revered basilica. But Venetians have come to accept periodic flooding -- acqua alta (high water), they call it -- as a way of life, while city officials and the Italian government have been slow to realize that Venice's artistic and architectural treasures are in grave danger.

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