Bracing for a terrorist attack


The sound of sirens - the Czech Republic's early-warning system - is one that many people have come to dread. Some remember the sound from the time of the floods three years ago, but today fears are just as strong of a man-made catastrophe. Since the terrorist attacks in New York, Madrid and London the fear of a possible bomb attack is never far from people's minds. Although the Czech intelligence services say they have no indication of any imminent threat to this country, the Czech government wants to make sure that the country's police and rescue services are capable of dealing with a large-scale disaster.

An anti-terrorist operation which is scheduled to take place in the early hours of Friday morning will simulate three separate terrorists attacks - a bomb explosion in the Prague metro, a suicide bomber at the Holesovice railway station and an explosion on a train in the town of Kralupy nad Vltavou, north-west of Prague.

The attacks in Prague take place within minutes of each other - the third blast in Kralupy an hour later - after the emergency forces from central Bohemia have been moved to Prague as re-enforcements, leaving the region vulnerable. Major-General Miroslav Stepan, who will be in command of the Prague metro operation says the idea is to simulate a real life situation where there are likely to be more attacks in close succession.

"The emergency rescue operation should last for approximately three hours - between 1am and four am -at a time when the metro is closed -but the scene will resemble a real life situation in the metro at around 3.30 pm. It will involve several hundred people - out of those 15 dead, 29 with serious injuries and close to 150 with light injuries and suffering from shock. We want to make sure that we can handle a large scale disaster within the set time - that's about three hours- because we know from the experience other countries have had that time is extremely important - a wrong decision or delays could cost more lives."

In order to make things as realistic as possible the three-part operation involving some 1,500 people has not been planned down to the last detail. Fire-crews, rescue teams and ambulances will set off from their home base -and those in command will have to make on the spot decisions depending on how the situation develops, just as they would in real life. Of course in real life there would most likely be many more people on the scene and major general Stepan says that while they'd be expected to leave the scene of the disaster as quickly as possible - help from the public would be expected and welcome.

" We need to achieve the best possible coordination between a vast number of rescue workers - crisis centers, rescue teams and hospitals - but we need to keep in mind that no country can be 100 percent prepared for such a situation and we are relying on people to help each other in a crisis - as we saw the public pitch in to help in London and Madrid. So yes, in the event of an attack we are counting on help and cooperation from the public."