13 Oct 2013

Venice flood barriers tested

12:08 pm on 13 October 2013

Barriers designed to protect the Italian city of Venice from flooding during high tides have passed their first test.

Four large floodgates rose out of the water creating a temporary sea barrier, drawing applause from VIPs invited to witness the first public test of the barrier system known as the Moses project.

When completed, 78 floodgates will be raised from the seabed to shut off the Venice lagoon in the event of rising sea levels and winter storms.

The city suffers flooding on a yearly basis and in 1966, 80% of the city was flooded by high tides leaving thousands homeless, the BBC reports.

Construction on the barriers began 10 years ago and was initially due for completion in 2014 but has been hampered by delays in funding due to Italy's economic crisis.

It has already cost more than $US7 billion and is not expected to be completed for another two years.

A government minister has promised funds to complete the scheme on time in 2016 but the head of the construction consortium said they would need $US800m immediately, otherwise the jobs of some 4,000 construction workers would be at risk.

Some Venetians argue the project is a waste of money and there is no guarantee it will work.