Italy on Thursday declared a state of emergency for Venice after an exceptional tide surged through churches, shops and homes that caused millions of euros worth of damage to the UNESCO city.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had approved the state of emergency and ordered the immediate release of 20 million euros ($22 million) in funds for “the most urgent interventions” in the devastated city after Tuesday’s flooding.

Conte also described the flooding as “a blow to the heart of our country”.

Conte spent last night in Venice, where world-famous monuments, homes and businesses were hit hard by the exceptional flooding.

The water reached 1.87 meters above sea level on Tuesday, the second-highest level ever recorded in the city.

Residents whose houses had been hit would immediately get up to 5,000 euros in government aid, while restaurant and shop owners could receive up to 20,000 euros and apply for later, he said.

Several museums remained closed to the public on Thursday.

As authorities assessed the extent of the damage to Venice’s cultural treasures, such as St Mark’s Basilica where water invaded the crypt, locals were defiant.

The mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro blamed climate change for the highest water levels in more than 50 years this week, saying the impact was “huge” and would leave “a permanent mark”.

On Wednesday, pumps were deployed to drain water from the church and its 12th Century crypt.

Small business owners and vendors in the city were appealing to tourists, many of whom had left the city after the water levels rose, to return.

The flooding in Venice was caused by a combination of high spring tides and a meteorological storm surge driven by strong winds blowing north-eastwards across the Adriatic Sea.

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has also arrived for a private tour of the damage sustained to the basilica, while the rival leader of the Italian right Matteo Salvini was due to drop by for the same on Friday.

A massive infrastructure project called MOSE has been underway since 2003 to protect the city, but it has been plagued by cost overruns, corruption scandals and delays.

(With inputs from agency)