Venice Tests Flood Barriers

Engineers in Venice have successfully tested a new flood barrier that they hope will protect the city. The BBC reports that the first four flood barriers of a planned 78 were floated in the entrance of the city’s famous lagoon.

Venice suffers annual floods due to unusually high tides that threaten irreplaceable buildings and a destination essential to Italy’s tourism industry. It’s also sinking at a rate of one to two millimeters a year, Discovery Magazine reports.

The barrier isn’t complete and has already cost $7 billion. It will take another $800 million and two years more work before it can protect the city. While Italy is suffering badly from the global economic crisis, the government has promised to complete the project by 2016.

New York’s LaGuardia Airport Flooded

New Yorkers and residents along the Eastern Seaboard are just beginning to emerge today from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy – millions remain without power, thousands of flights have been cancelled and transportation throughout the region has been severely disrupted.

If you need further evidence of what it looks like in New York here on the ground, just check out this shot posted this morning by a flight attendant at LaGuardia airport. The airport, which lies in a low-lying coastal area remains severely flooded this morning.

For those of you in transit this week, stay patient. It could be a few days before normal flight, train and bus service in and out of the New York area resumes normal activity.

UPDATE: A special thanks to tireless LaGuardia airport worker Francesco Giannola for your photo.

[Photo credit: Francesco Giannola]

Australia floods leave tourist industry in peril

Brisbane, brisbane, Australia, australia
The terrible floods in Queensland, Australia, have destroyed thousands of homes, done billions of dollars of damage, and have left at least a dozen people dead. Queensland is a major coal exporter, and with the rising waters hampering shipments and flooding mines, world coal prices have risen. A major consumer of Queensland coal are Asian steel mills, which are already feeling the pinch. This has led to a rise in steel prices. That’s a double dose of bad news for the economic recovery.

Another Queensland industry has also been hard hit–tourism. The tourists have fled along with the residents, but it’s the long-term effects that are more harmful. If rising coal and steel prices hurt the economic recovery, that’s bound to hurt the tourism industry pretty much everywhere. Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city, is the center for Australia’s Gold Coast, a major draw for Australia’s $32 billion tourist industry. Floods are damaging popular beaches and will require costly repairs. Coastal and riverside hotels and shops are being destroyed. The Brisbane Times reports that toxic materials washed into the sea could have an effect on delicate coral reefs and fish populations. With snorkeling and scuba diving such popular activities on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, this could do long-term damage to tourism.

Meanwhile, airlines are worried about how this will affect them. Virgin Blue has already seen its shares drop by 3.4 percent today because investors fear there will be a drop in bookings. Qantas shares also dipped slightly. Airlines are issuing fee waivers for passengers who want to change their flights to, from, or through Brisbane.

It looks like Queensland residents will suffer from the flood long after the waters recede.

[Photo of Brisbane sunset courtesy user t i m m a y via Gadling’s flickr pool]

Roman ruins in Turkey to be flooded by dam project

One of the most important Roman archaeological sites in Turkey will soon be underwater.

The Roman spa town of Allianoi will be submerged beneath a reservoir once the nearby Yortanli dam becomes operational. The town was built in the second century AD near Bergama (ancient Pergamon) and has remained remarkably preserved. Archaeologists have uncovered baths, sculptures, artifacts, and elaborate mosaics that are giving them insights into Roman medicine and culture.

The site has become a battleground between archaeologists and European Union cultural officials on one side, and the Turkish government and farmers on the other. Local farmers are eager to see the dam finished because it will irrigate almost 20,000 acres of land. The EU has weighed in on the controversy because Turkey hopes to become a member state, yet the construction goes against both EU and Turkish heritage preservation laws.

Ironically, the site was only discovered because of an archaeological survey conducted in anticipation of the dam’s construction.

Only a quarter of the town has been excavated so far. Workers are currently burying the site in sand in order to protect it when it gets inundated.

[Photo courtesy Cretanforever via Wikimedia Commons]

Venezuelan church back from watery grave

Potosi, Venezuela hasn’t been on anyone’s travel radar much since 1985. That was the year when the town was deliberately flooded by the Venezuelan government to build a hydroelectric dam. That left most of the worthwhile souvenirs from Potosi rather soggy. However, severe droughts in the region have resulted in an odd miracle, of sorts. The water levels in the man-made reservoir are so low that the town’s previously submerged church is now completely above water and resting on dry land.

National Geographic has some haunting photographs of the 82-foot-tall church that hasn’t been seen in its entirety in 25 years. The good news is that visitors can now witness this beautiful church and marvel at the effects of El Niño. The bad news is 68% of Venezuela’s power is hydroelectric. That means that the country is now experiencing an officially-declared energy emergency.

One could assume that the drought will eventually end and the reservoir will once again drown the town of Potosi. Until then, the church stands in the center of a ghost town that is seeing visitors for the first time in over two decades.

Photo by Flickr user JunCTionS.