Daily news summary


Eight dead after tragic fire at Czech care home

Eight people were killed after a fire broke out at a care home in the town of Vejprty in Northern Bohemia on Sunday morning. Another 29 people were injured in the blaze, three of them seriously, a spokesperson for the Ústí nad Labem Region rescue services said.

The fire service was called out just before 5 am. The fire was initially reported as being at a senior citizens’ home but in fact occurred at a facility for people with mental and multiple disabilities.

Bad weather meant it was not possible to employ helicopters. Seven rescue teams were sent to the scene, including two from nearby Germany.

The director of Vejprty social services, Viktor Koláček, told Czech Television that the building had suffered little damage and smoke had been the main problem.

The governor of Ústí nad Labem, Oldřich Bubeníček, told the news site iDnes.cz that it was an enormous tragedy, adding that the region would provide assistance and soon as it had more information.

Petříček says he understands Zeman’s hesitation over China summit

The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Tomáš Petříček, says he understands President Miloš Zeman’s hesitation over whether to attend a “17+1” summit being held by China in April. Speaking on Czech Television on Sunday, Mr. Petříček said it was necessary to make clear to Beijing that the Czech Republic’s expectations with regard to mutual trade had not been met.

Last week Mr. Zeman, who had long pushed for closer ties with Beijing, said he would not attend this year’s edition of the summit bringing together China and Central and Eastern European states and that the country would be represented by deputy PM Jan Hamáček instead. The president told the newspaper Blesk that China had not delivered on its promises to invest in the Czech Republic.

However, a close associate of Mr. Zeman said later that the head of state might consider going if the China side were willing to sign deals with Czech entrepreneurs on specific projects.

Minister: Czech Republic won’t take in 40 child refugees from Greek camps

The Czech Republic will not accept 40 child refugees from camps in Greece, says the country’s minister of the interior, Jan Hamáček. Speaking the Prima TV station on Sunday, Mr. Hamáček said the Greek government had refused to hand over a list of names of children, adding that he would not bring 18-year-old Afghans into the country as they would represent a security risk. The minister said that as far as he was concerned the matter was closed.

In September the Athens government called on all EU interior ministers to take in unaccompanied child refugees. Mr. Hamáček said that this had been an effort to revive a debate on sharing out refugees but that in his view it made no sense to move around 17-year-olds with no right to asylum.

CT: Catholic Church may create country’s first church bank

The Czech Roman Catholic Church may in future create the country’s first church-owned bank, Czech Television reported on Sunday. Church officials are preparing for a situation under which it will cease to receive state contributions in a decade’s time, the station said.

The České Budějovice bishopric has acquired almost 10 percent of the shares in the Artesa credit union and is now considering whether to become the majority owner. If it does so, it will seek to convert Artesa into the country’s first church bank.

Dioceses are at present investing money in securities, while the Catholic Church has bought two small hospitals in Prague.

In line with a restitution law, church groups have been regaining control of some properties seized under communism. They are also receiving repayments of over CZK 60 billion over a 30-year period for properties that are not being returned.

Prague students criticise invitation of Orban to State Opera reopening

Students at Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts have criticised the director of the National Theatre, Jan Burian. In an open letter, they castigate him for having invited the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, to the recent ceremonial reopening of the State Opera, which falls under the National Theatre.

The students said it was “extremely inappropriate” to invite Mr. Orban in view of the fact that free theatre in Hungary was, they said, under threat from his ruling Fidesz party.

Mr. Burian responded by saying the opening of the renovated State Opera was a social occasion to which representatives of political and public life had been invited regardless of their party membership.

Five Czech women to appear on opening day of Australian Open

Five Czech female players will be in action on the opening day of the Australian Open in Melbourne on Monday. Petra Kvitova, the seventh seed and a finalist in the first Grand Slam of the year in 2019, will take on her compatriot Kateřina Siniaková.

Marie Bouzková, making her first appearance in the Australian Open, will be hoping to cause an upset against the reigning champion Naomi Osaka of Japan, while Barbora Krejčíková a Barbora Strýcová will also be in action. There are four other Czech women taking part in this year’s competition.

Highs of up to 3 degrees Celsius expected in Czech Republic over next month

Temperatures in the Czech Republic over the next four weeks should reach up to 3 degrees Celsius during the day and fall below freezing point at night, according to a regular monthly forecast issued by the Czech Hydro-Meteorological Institute. Those values are in line with the long-term average for the time of year.

In the following week precipitation is expected to be below the long-term average; the following three weeks should see average levels of rain or snow.

Weather forecast

Monday should be overcast in the Czech Republic with temperatures of up to 2 degrees Celsius. Sunshine is forecast for Tuesday but then cloudy weather is expected to return.