2002: The year of the most destructive floods in modern Czech history
Prague was the most badly affected of all the Czech cities hit by the large-scale natural disaster. Several neighbourhoods were flooded and metro stations, monuments and a part of the zoo all ended up underwater.
It rained for days and the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute warned of further persistent rainfall. South Bohemia was hit by storms with torrential downpours and the already full river basin could not take in any more water.
On July 7, the first rivers in south Bohemia began to overflow. A catastrophe was approaching, the likes of which the present generation had never experienced before. The huge floods swept through southern Bohemia and into Germany.
The floods changed the life of the capital
In Prague, the river overflowed a week later, the current flowing at a rate of over 5,000 cubic metres of water per second. Water resource managers said they were the worst floods in 500 years. Parts of the city were without electricity and the metro stopped running. 50,000 people were evacuated and buildings including the Statistical Office and the National Library found themselves under water.
The floods had tragic consequences for the zoo. One gorilla and two Liberian hippos drowned. Several animals, including a lion and a bear, had to be euthanised due to the rising water levels. Zoo workers had to evacuate a total of 1,010 animals.
The zoo’s sea lion Gaston became a media sensation after he escaped via the flooded Vltava and Elbe rivers and reached Germany, where, despite the efforts of veterinarians, he died of exhaustion.
The floods in Prague attracted the most attention, but there were smaller villages, such as Metly na Strakonicku and Zálezlice na Mělnicku, which were almost wiped off the map. In these villages 40 houses had to be razed to the ground due to structural damage.
The catastrophic floods claimed 17 lives and caused damage worth 73 billion crowns.