Locals and tourists evacuated from historic Old Town in early hours

Floods in Prague, Photo:CTK

After some 200,000 people had already been evacuated - 50,000 in Prague alone - more people were forced by the tumultuous floods to leave their homes in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Air raid type sirens rang out around the Old Town and Jewish Quarters, as the emergency services ordered residents, and tourists staying at hotels in the area, to make their way to evacuation centres. Ian Willoughby visited one such centre before noon on Wednesday.

Floods in Prague, Photo:CTK
After some 200,000 people had already been evacuated - 50,000 in Prague alone - more people were forced by the tumultuous floods to leave their homes in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Air raid type sirens rang out around the Old Town and Jewish Quarters, as the emergency services ordered residents, and tourists staying at hotels in the area, to make their way to evacuation centres. Ian Willoughby visited one such centre before noon on Wednesday.

At the evacuation centre at the school on Prague's Vodickov Street, not far from Wenceslas Square, things were running quite smoothly, given the extremely trying circumstances. Young people, evidently students, were helping residents and tourists, while several soldiers were also on hand. In comparison with the tourists, the local residents were much more miserable, and, unsurprisingly perhaps, were not too keen to talk to journalists. Several visitors to the city however were prepared to talk about the dramatic events they had experienced early on Wednesday morning.

Young Italian man: "At half past five the police rang a siren. We left our room, went out onto the street and walked on foot to this school."

German man: "Six in the morning I heard the sirens outside and the loudspeakers saying something in Czech like 'evacuation'. Then a few minutes later they knocked at my door and I went to the door in my underwear, and the policeman just said you have to get out, you have to get out, the water is coming. So my girlfriend and I dressed and we ran downstairs and got out. The water was right there at the side of the door and we just got away, and they told us to leave."

There have been reports that some people have been refusing to leave their homes. Did you see anybody resisting?

German man: "I don't know if they were resisting, but I saw people when we walked out of the region that had been closed...there were still people, especially old people looking out of the windows, and the water was already there. So you might think that these people don't want to leave their houses."

Englishman: "I originally was in the hotel Maximilian and I was told to evacuate there yesterday at breakfast time to go to a safer area, which was the Josef Hotel. I went to the Josef and about four o'clock this morning we were told to evacuate, take whatever we could and leave the building as soon as possible."

Floods in Prague
What will you do now?

Englishman: "Well, I was directed here (to the evacuation centre) in the early hours and I've tried several times to find a hotel but I cannot get anywhere accommodation, unfortunately."

Volunteer: (listening, joins conversation) "There is new information, this person can stay here. He has to register."

Englishman: "I have done that."

Volunteer: "The bus to the Strahov kolej (students' residence) will be here in the afternoon. So there is a solution."

Englishman: "OK, that's what I will do."

Will you stay in Prague?

Englishman: "I'm booked on a flight back tomorrow. So I only have to stay one more night, so it should be OK."

Has the experience (of the evacuations and flooding) damaged your holiday, so to speak?

Israeli girl: "No, actually, it made it more interesting."

Why do you stay that?

Israeli girl: "Because this happens once in a hundred years. So it's nice to be here when it happens."

American man: "The evacuation was smooth and well-organised, and the accommodation was surprisingly...complete. My son, who is 16, spent all night down there packing sand bags. I stayed and watched them work, and it was an extraordinary effort. And we found it to be a great display of the spirit of the city."