Damage assessment and clear-up begin as river levels fall in flood-hit regions

Troubky na Přerovsku na leteckém snímku z 18. května, foto: ČTK

After torrential rains caused flooding in parts of Moravia this week, water levels have started to go down. But now the hard part begins: assessing the cost of the damage, as well as beginning the clean-up and recovery. Parts of Moravia are still in danger of mudslides and several homes have either been destroyed or face demolition. Local officials expect that repairs will cost billions of crowns.

Parts of Moravia hit by floods have the worst behind them, flood specialists have said, all the same plenty of problems in areas remain: the danger of mudslides on unstable ground which has been water-logged. Some families have lost everything – several homes are either already destroyed or will need to be demolished. For them, there is little consolation that more than 10 billion crowns were spent on anti-flood protection in areas between 2002 to 2009.

Troubky,  18 May 2010,  photo: CTK
Inhabitants of Troubky, for example, found their town hit again, 13 years after being the symbol of devastation in 1997. This year’s flooding was just as heavy although the impact was less severe. As people slowly begin to return to their homes and to assess the damage one question being asked is what should be done to prevent a repeat of such tragedies in the future. One person who has a clear opinion on the subject is the country’s President Václav Klaus, who spoke to reporters on Wednesday.

“I think that it is important that state funds towards the reconstruction of homes be spent carefully, depending on whether the homes stand in areas where there can be floods every three years. It would make sense for the funds to be used to move such homes five or ten metres to higher ground.”

Photo: CTK
There has been little reaction to his words so far, most likely because officials in the government’s Central Flood Commission are still dealing with organising immediate help for those whose property and livelihood have been affected, as opposed to settling on long-term solutions. On the internet, by comparison, the president’s words provoked plenty of heated discussion, some in agreement, some angry over the president’s timing, saying it was one thing to talk about moving homes, but another to discuss the issue even before the waters had fully receded. Still, on the whole, the president’s words are something environmentalists such as Vojtěch Kotecký of Friends of the Earth agree with. Given the increased frequency and intensity of floods in problematic areas, moving to higher ground makes sense.

“It’s up to individual owners where to build their new homes but if the government intends to spend tax payers’ money then it should focus funding on rebuilding in areas that are better protected from floods. Not areas that were hit in this case. These are areas that will be hit again in the next flood and to spend funds on rebuilding there is a waste of public money.”

Rut Bízková,  photo: CTK
It remains to be seen whether the discussion gains traction with authorities once the worst is taken care of and once life in flood-stricken areas returns to normal. So far it hasn’t: on Wednesday the country’s Environment Minister Rut Bízková, touring flood-stricken areas, stressed that local mayors who had resisted flood protection, whether mobile or permanent, needed to take steps now. The Czech News Agency cited officials as saying for that purpose at least billions of crowns are still available.