Venice has conducted a trial run of an ambitious anti-flood system of 78 inflatable barriers in the hope of protecting the city from devastating high tides.
Premier Giuseppe Conte pressed a button that activated compressors to pump air into the bright yellow barriers, which then started rising from the sea.
The project was supposed to be up and running in 2011 but now the date is 2021, although Mr Conte expressed hope it could be ready by this autumn.
The project’s name, Moses, recalls the Biblical figure who parted the waters of the Red Sea, as well as being the Italian acronym for Experimental Electromechanical Modules.
The moveable flood gates are attached by hinges to cement blocks on the seabed along three openings from the sea into the Venice lagoon.
After high-tide danger ceases, seawater is pumped into the gates to make them heavy so they can be lowered.
Inaugurated in 2003, the project was mired in corruption.
In 2014, investigators revealed a system of bribes and kickbacks.
Environmentalists have opposed the project, afraid it will disturb the lagoon’s delicate ecology.
On Friday, some of them rode in small boats near the test site and waved protest banners.
Mr Conte praised the project, saying it is designed to safeguard Venice’s ’marvellous architectural, artistic and historical heritage.
In November 2019, Venice suffered its worst flooding in more than 50 years.
Had Moses been operational last year, it could have been put to a dramatic test.
Floodwaters on November 12 invaded St Mark’s Basilica and also poured into homes, hotels, stores and restaurants in the city .
The barriers are designed to protect Venice from tides as high as 10ft. In the November flood, the tide surged to 6ft 6in.