After the floods in the town of Pisek

Medieval bridge in Pisek after floods, Photo:CTK

The old town of Pisek, eighty kilometres south of Prague, was in the front line of last week's floods. Only as the mopping up operation begins has it become clear quite how much damage has been done. The town's best-known landmark, its medieval bridge, adorned with 18th century statues of saints, has taken a severe battering, and much of the town centre is recovering after coming under several metres of water. One of the many people who have been working as volunteers to help clear up the mess is Peter Moree, who teaches at Prague's Protestant Theological Faculty. Radio Prague's David Vaughan caught up with him and began by asking him about Pisek's ancient bridge.

Medieval bridge in Pisek after floods, Photo:CTK
"When I saw the bridge after the flooding, I was quite shocked, I should say, because what is there is the bridge, but without the side part of it, and it's not functioning as a bridge at the moment, so it's not able to bring people together."

And the statues are intact, are they, on the top?

"Except for one, I think. But most of the other large bricks and the stones, they found. At least I saw them on the side of the river. When we were there they were at least trying to make it a bridge again, so that people could walk over."

There's a certain symbolism in that, isn't there, in renewing the life of the town?

"Exactly, because Pisek has to rely on those bridges, because you have the old part, basically on both sides. The larger part is on one side of the river. Part of that was also flooded, and on the other side there is a new part of town and it's horrendous to see that. It's four or five streets with large blocks of flats and they were flooded up to the second floor, sometimes even the third floor. So people are really working hard. There is a large sense of solidarity between them, but at the same time you felt already that they will be very tired in the coming few weeks and that this is only the first step. They will need a lot of moral support for the kind of shock they are in."

How do you think people are coping psychologically and what are the kind of psychological problems that people are facing there?

"In the first place it's simply that they are out of their homes and they don't know what's going on, so there's uncertainty - is everything ok? - can I live there again? Then you have the second phase that they come back and they see the real situation. They see also how the streets are damaged and so on. So for everyone living in those parts of town this returning will cause a big shock, because of the damage and because of the lost sense of communication or of community, which it is necessary to rebuild again. And then of course in the long term it is this kind of uncertainty - will it happen again? - isn't it better to move to another place? - so all those kind of things that you feel how fragile, in a way, that you are."

You experienced the floods in Moravia five years ago. Do you think that the authorities have learned from that experience?

"Yes, I think they have learned a lot. I was very much surprised how the information was communicated this time. Already from the very first day, basically, television started to broadcast all day long about the floods and what is happening. The information that was given by the authorities was mostly - not in all cases, as we know by now - quite accurate, and they helped people, I think, to make some decisions about what to do next."