A freak low tide in the waterways of Venice has stranded the city’s world-famous gondolas and water taxis in a sea of mud.
The colourful boats sit abandoned in their moorings as the city’s romantic waterways have been reduced to a squelching quagmire.
The severe tides have – report Italian media – caused significant disruptions to daily life.
Water buses and other vessels have been unable to navigate the city’s shallow waterways for days.
And even water ambulances have been grounded and are unable to reach the sick.
The low tide has caused fish to die en masse and has revealed the ancient foundations of many buildings.
The freak water levels have also disrupted the city’s carnival, which has drawn more than 100,000 tourists to the city, now unable to navigate its historic canals.
Officials say water levels in Venice have dropped to 65 centimetres (26 inches) below the average sea level.
Alvise Papa of the Tide Forecasting Centre told local media: “It has been at least 15 years since we have recorded such a prolonged duration.”
In 2005, water levels remained at more than 50 centimetres (20 inches) below sea level for 48 hours.
Weather experts blame the phenomenon on an anticyclone wind system that is temporarily stuck above the city.
The anticyclone lingering over northern Italy has also led to smog in the cities of the Po Valley and has put strain on the agricultural sector.
It is expected that the canals of Venice will remain dry until at least 21st February.
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