Four feared dead, 2,000 evacuated in severe floods

Ceske Budejovice, photo: CTK

The Czech Republic is counting the human cost of the latest round of severe flooding to hit the country, which claimed up to four lives and made 2,000 others temporarily homeless. The worst of the flooding occurred in the South Bohemia region, but rising waters have reached as far as the River Vltava in Prague. Rob Cameron reports.

Ceske Budejovice, photo: CTK
Days of heavy rain swelled rivers throughout the South Bohemia region this week, and on Thursday the Malse and Blanice rivers burst their banks, flooding the city of Ceske Budejovice. Hundreds of people in the city were forced to leave their homes, and firemen had to use boats to evacuate elderly residents. Water was waist-deep in some residential areas, and the streets were full of submerged cars.

So far four people are feared dead. Police in the town of Pisek said a thick oak tree uprooted and fell on a hut, killing a 21-year-old woman working at a summer camp in the village of Varvazov. The flooded Malse river swept away a car with a driver in the southern town of Kaplice; he is feared dead. Czech Radio reported a 19-year-old woman was also feared drowned after her raft capsized, and a fireman died of a heart attack during rescue work.

Ceske Budejovice, photo: CTK
Last night the rising water, which disrupted railway routes and electricity in some areas, continued to move north on the Vltava river toward Prague. The tide forced dams on the river to open their gates, and police cleared low-lying parks and islands, evacuating some areas including a youth hostel popular with foreign backpackers. So far the flooding has mostly been restricted to embankments on the Vltava, attracting crowds of curious onlookers.

Meteorologists say rainfall over the last few days was equivalent to a three-month summer average. Many watching the floods on television will have remembered 1997, when the worse flooding for a century hit east Bohemia and Moravia, making thousands homeless and killing more than 50 people. This year's disaster is on a much lesser scale, but for many people in South Bohemia the experience will be a traumatic one, as they start the grim task of rebuilding ruined homes.