Most of Venice under water due to exceptionally high tides

Water transport services were halted across Venice as 75 per cent of the city centre flooded to 156cm (61inc) by early afternoon, the highest level since 2012.

Yet this was not the "high water mark" of the city's current flooding crisis. Most of the city's famous water bus system was also closed down.

The mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, said a series of underwater barriers being erected in the lagoon would have prevented the situation.

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Brugnaro said he had asked to talk with Premier Giuseppe Conte to underline the urgency of the project, which would raise barriers when the tide reaches 109 centimetres. In 2003, Italy began construction on a massive system of surge protection gates around Venice, but fifteen years and €5.5 billion euros later the project is still unfinished.

Two people were killed when a tree fell on their auto not far from Rome, and a young man in the Naples region also died after being hit by a falling tree, according to authorities.

Residents and businesses typically reinforce their doors with metal or wooden panels to prevent water from entering but, this time, photos on social media showed shop owners using water pumps to try to protect their wares.

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Much of Italy is under flooding alerts following heavy rains on Sunday and Monday, with high winds and toppled trees leading to at least five deaths.

"All of Veneto is in code red alarm for this wave of bad weather", said Luca Zaia, the regional president, warning that conditions could match historic flood levels of 1966 when the water reached 1.9 metres. In a message on Instagram, he closed schools in the region for a second day on Tuesday.

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