The highest tide in 50 years inundated Venice on Tuesday. [Luca Bruno/AP Photo]

Venice was hit by the highest tide in more than 50 years late on Tuesday, with tourists wading through flooded streets to seek shelter as a fierce wind whipped up waves in St Mark’s Square.

The exceptionally intense “acqua alta,” or high waters, peaked at 1.87 metres (six feet) as the flood alarm sounded across Italy‘s iconic city of canals, the tide monitoring centre said.

“We’re currently facing an exceptionally high tide. Everyone has been mobilised to cope with the emergency,” Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro tweeted.

Only once since records began in 1923 has the water crept even higher, reaching 1.94m (6.3 feet) in 1966.

As emergency services took to the canals

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