Italy has declared a state of emergency after the Italian tourism hot spot of Venice was engulfed by 1.87m high water levels, flooding its historic basilica and cutting power to homes.

More than 85% of Unesco world heritage site Venice is underwater in the highest water levels recorded in over 50 years.

Two people are reported to have died and hundreds of millions of euros in damage have been caused by the heavy rain on Tuesday with further surges since causing continued damage.

The highest water levels in the region in more than 50 years would leave “a permanent mark”, Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro tweeted.

Many famous attractions have been submerged in floodwaters with flood levels reaching the second-highest level since records began in 1923 at 1.87 metres.

St. Marks Square, La Fenice Theatre, The luxurious Gritti Place hotel, Ca’ Pesaro Modern Art Gallery and Pellestrina, the thin strip of land forming a barrier between the city and the Adriatic Sea along the eastern side of the Venetian Lagoon have all been impacted.

St Mark’s Square was submerged by more than one metre of water, while the adjacent basilica was flooded for only the sixth time in 1,200 years – but the fourth in the last two decades.

Sirens sounded to warn people in Venice of the rising water, or “acqua alta,” and authorities closed nursery schools as a precaution.

The head of the Venice hotels association said the damage was enormous, with many hotels losing electricity and lacking pumps to remove water.

According to the BBC, Salvano Nastasi, the Secretary-General of Italy’s culture ministry, told local media that the situation was “extremely complex and worrying” and a crisis unit had been established to assess the impact.

Meanwhile, water taxis attempting to drop people off at the historic hotels along the Grand Canal were hindered by the issue of gangways being washed away, with passengers having to clamber through windows to enter, according to The Guardian.

Venice airport said connections by water taxi remained difficult due to the “exceptional level” of the tide.

Climate change has been blamed for floods which have engulfed more than 85% of Venice.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said “We ask the government to help us. This is the result of climate change,”

“Now the government must listen. These are the effects of climate change… the costs will be high.”

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro