Death toll in Italy storms rises to 11, as tourists are barred from flooded St. Mark’s Square in Venice

The death toll from fierce storms battering Italy has risen to 11, civil protection authorities said on Tuesday, as wild weather caused schools to close and trapped dozens of tourists in the north of the country.

With ferocious storms lashing the country, winds reached up to 110 mph in some areas, toppling trees and causing flooding.

Many of the deaths were due to trees crashing down on cars and pedestrians. The victims also included a woman who was buried by mud when a landslide invaded her home near Trento in northern Italy and a man who was slammed against rocks while wind surfing in Emilia-Romagna.

The other fatalities occurred in Naples, Liguria, Lazio and Veneto, where authorities found a 61-year-old man whose body had been swept more than a kilometer (half a mile) away from his car.

"It was the perfect storm during which adverse meteorological conditions contributed to the situation in the sea and winds," civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli said.

Italian media have also reported that around 170 people, tourists and hotel staff, were stranded by heavy snowfall at the Stelvio Pass on the Swiss border.

In the northern, canal-ringed city of Venice, rain-soaked tourists were barred from St. Mark’s Square on Monday as local authorities said the "acqua alta" (high water) peaked at 156 centimetres (61 inches). On Tuesday, water levels topped only briefly the 80 centimeters that floods the square.

Italian News agency ANSA reported damage to the mosaic floors inside St. Mark’s Basilica. 

The bronze metal doors and columns also sustained damage in what was the fifth most serious flood in the church’s 924-year history.

First Procurator Carlo Alberto Tesserin, who is charged with the basilica’s preservation, told ANSA the church "aged 20 years in one day." He said that parts of the building, near the main entrance opposite the main altar, were under water for 16 hours.

Italian cultural officials were expected to arrive in Venice as soon as possible to inspect the damage, Rome’s top official in Venice, Fabio Carapezza Guttuso, told ANSA.

The wooden floors in the nearly 300-year-old Florian cafe nearby also received serious damage.

"Venice is an amphibious civilisation. We need to get used to this," cafe art director Stefano Stipitivich said.

The waters have only topped 150 centimetres five times before in recorded history.

Genoa’s airport is set to remain closed until 1300 GMT as authorities clear the runways of detritus carried by the heavy rains, wind and tides.

Rains flooded highways and caused a landslide that forced the temporary closure of the Brenner highway connecting Italy with Austria, while the Adige River running through Verona rose by 6 feet but did not overflow.

In Rome, more than 100 trees were felled by high winds, and ports reported damage from the storm, including to moored boats.

Olive growers in Liguria estimated that one-third of the crop was lost due to damage from the storms that struck during the harvest.

Nearly 6,000 firefighters were dispatched to remove debris from roadways across the country. One firefighter was killed by a tree near Bolzano, in Alto-Adige. Schools were closed in large areas of the country for two days as a precaution.