Floods drive thousands of people from their homes

Photo: CTK

What started out as local spring floods three days ago are now a major cause for concern around the country. Many towns and villages in Moravia, that's the eastern part of the Czech Republic, are underwater. In the southern town of Znojmo ten thousand people have been evacuated from their homes. The floods have already claimed four lives and meteorologists warn that the situation may worsen because of continuing rain.

Photo: CTK
Daniela Lazarova has been following developments. So Daniela, what did the night hours bring and what is the situation at present?

Well, as you said Rob, the floods have paralyzed many parts of the country - in the north the south and, most of all the east. It's been a sleepless third night for literally tens of thousands of people as water levels in the Elbe, Dyje, Morava and Vltava rose still further. The army and firemen have been working around the clock but the floodwater has proved difficult to contain in many areas. Just to give you an idea - in Moravia the Dyje River, a Danube tributary, is surging at 30 times its normal level - which made the Vranov Dam overflow and a huge mass of water simply spread out into the region. So in places where people were pumping water from their cellars 24 hours ago there are now rescue teams moving around the town in boats. Most people have obeyed evacuation orders but there are some who refuse to leave their homes and indeed one of the victims was a man who died of a heart attack as he tried to save more belongings from his flooded house.

There are now thousands of firemen, soldiers and emergency crews out in the field. Are there enough emergency shelters and aid for the people who have been forced to leave their homes?

Photo: CTK
Certainly for those who agree to leave their homes there are emergency shelters, there are crisis committees working permanently in all the affected parts of the country and with the help of the local police they have been evacuating people, hospitals, old age homes even in the night hours. We spoke earlier to Petr Gandalovic the mayor of Usti nad Labem, north of Prague, where the army helped to evacuate part of the town after the swollen Labe burst through a flood protection barrier:

"Well I must say that the situation in Usti is critical, we had to evacuate about 200 people from the right bank of the river Elbe. Unfortunately the man made barrier which we have been working on for the past three days burst and the entire part of this city was flooded. Fortunately nobody was hurt and everybody got evacuated."

Photo: CTK
The prime minister cut short his working visit to Egypt last night to attend a late night emergency cabinet session at which ministers approved 380 million crowns in emergency aid to the regions. A part of it will go to cover emergency supplies, the rest will be used for reconstruction work, restoring infrastructure and other facilities. And individuals can ask for emergency loans to the tune of 20 thousand crowns.

We have not mentioned Prague - what is the situation in the Czech capital?

Well as we speak, it is good. Primarily because the water level is not dangerously high and secondly because Prague has erected flood protection barriers at the critical spots. It is certainly better prepared than it was in the devastating floods in 2002. But having said that, the weather reports we've been getting are not good. More rain is expected in the coming days and for most of next week in which case the situation could become critical in Prague as well. It all depends on the weather in the coming hours and days.