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Photo courtesy of Allison Lince-Bentley/wikimedia.org
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Top photo courtesy of Allison Lince-Bentley/wikimedia.org

Floods Hit Venice!

Last month, the Italian city of Venice faced its worst flooding in more than 50 years.

In 1966, 6 feet 4 inches of water overwhelmed Venice and caused significant damage. In November, the city saw its waters rise again to 6 feet.

Flooding is not uncommon in the City of Canals. The 53,000 residents are used to seasonal flooding, which is known as acqua alta in Italian. Unfortunately, many were not prepared for the unusually high tide that hit in November and flooded more than 80 percent of the historic city.

It left shop owners, locals, and volunteers scrambling to save everything from artwork to books before the water could damage them. The flooding also brought life to a halt as schools shut down and some supermarkets were closed. It also presented a challenge for the 30 million tourists that visit Venice each year—yes, 30 million!

Shouro Dasgupta, an environmental economist with the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change, says that while Venice has always struggled with flooding, there are records to show it is getting worse.

He says that between 1872 and 1950, there was one “exceptional” high tide—when water reached more than 4 feet 7 inches above sea level. According to Dasgupta, between 1951 and 2019 there have been 21 of these severe floods. Thirteen of those 21 events have happened since 2000, and the week that made headlines last month brought four “exceptional” high tides.

“Having four such events in one week is unprecedented, not just because of the severity of it, but also because they have been so frequent," Dasgupta says.

Since Venice is known for floods, some people have asked why the government hasn’t found a way to be better prepared. A project was started 16 years ago to install moveable floodgates that would protect Venice from these high tides. The project has already cost more than $5 billion, and engineers have said they are trying to finish the project by the end of 2021.

The world famous Green VaultThieves Make Off with Priceless Royal Jewels

DRESDEN, Germany—It’s the jewelry HEIST heard round the world! Early in the morning on Nov. 25, at least two thieves managed to break into the historic palace that houses the world famous Green Vault.

Dresden, the capital of the eastern German state of Saxony, attracts tourists worldwide who visit its many museums and enjoy the city’s ORNATE architecture, some of which dates back hundreds of years.

The Green Vault takes up two floors. On the lower level, there are eight opulent display rooms of royal jewelry and other amazing objects, collected by or gifted to Augustus II the Strong of Saxony, who became the King of Poland in 1697. The king began his collection in 1723 and passed away 10 years later.

Toward the end of World War II, three of the eight display rooms were destroyed by bombs dropped by Allied forces, including the United States. But the rooms and the rest of the palace were rebuilt, and the thousands of treasures were put back on display for the world to enjoy.

According to news reports, a fire broke out near the palace and knocked out power to the streetlights and perhaps the alarm system to the Green Vault on Nov. 25. At least the video surveillance system was working and showed the two thieves dressed in black entering the Jewel Room. Using what appears to be a small ax, the thieves smash through the bulletproof glass of three displays and make off with the loot.

Fortunately, the museum’s most famous piece, the 41-carat Dresden Green Diamond, is on loan to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Also, some of the pieces were stitched into the displays and couldn’t be grabbed.

The jewelry thieves still made off with several priceless pieces, including a sword with a diamond-studded handle and matching scabbard, a diamond star worn on the chest of Polish royalty and an ornate hat clasp with a very large 16-carat diamond as its main stone.

The jewels are part of Saxony’s heritage, and officials believe that if they aren’t recovered soon, the pieces might be broken apart to make selling some of the individual stones easier.

Edition: 
Phoenix
Issue: 
December 2019