Mailbox

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Today's Mailbox includes Topics: Floods Quotes from: Celine, Michael Stevenson, Catherine Gilles, Nancy Witt, David Ansell, Susan Armstrong, Bernadette Polansky, Anna Zigure, Fred Gosiewski, Paolo Guadagnoli, Massimo Benocci, Wim Oolders, Vasilis Deltsos, Paul Bailey, Azizul Alam Al-Amin, Warren Ellison, Barbara Greck, Jonathan Mathews, Will Steer, Jim Wolford, Ron Westwood, Daphne Cortese, Charlie Maxwell, Leonid Krys, Frank Koelewijn

Welcome again to Mailbox, the weekly program in which we read from listeners' letters and emails and we try to answer their questions and comments. And it's not only listeners who write in, we're also getting a steady flow of emails from RP internet news subscribers. Since both Olga and Dita are away this week Ian and I finally had the chance to browse through the letters and emails that keep coming from countries not far from the Czech Republic but also from the remotest parts of the world.

In this week's Mailbox we'll have to stick to the topic of the recent devastating floods, simply because the overwhelming majority of your letters and emails concern the subject. We'll start off with a short email from Celine from the United Kingdom in which she asks:

"Are you able to continue your broadcasts despite the floods or have you left Prague?"

Well, Celine, as you can hear and see on our website, we are alive and well, working in our old offices and broadcasting from our usual studio. The Czech Radio building is situated on a hill, quite a long way from the river, and although it's quite central, there was no chance whatsoever that water could get anywhere close to our facilities. And we can also reassure Michael Stevenson from Australia who writes:

"I hope you are all well and that none of the staff of Radio Prague were affected by the terrible floods."

Thanks for your concern Michael. While I'm sure all of us here at Radio Prague do know people who were directly affected by the floods neither I nor any of my colleagues were evacuated or suffered in any way.

On a related note, Sister Catherine Gilles from Silver Lake College in the United States in concerned about the state of a school close to Wenceslas Square and a number of listeners have been concerned about the famous square itself. Well, Wenceslas Square is also quite high up above the Vltava river no water got there.

Many of you have sent in questions about the Charles Bridge, which was badly damaged in a flood in 1890, when large chunks of the bridge were washed away. Despite the fact that the river was higher this time, there river wasn't full of debris and Charles Bridge escaped unscathed. I am pleased to tell you it was reopened last Wednesday. So if you are coming to Prague, that's one attraction that you won't miss.

We would like to thank all of you who have sent us your sympathies, such as David Ansell from Sussex in England, Susan Armstrong and Bernadette Polansky from Texas, Anna Zigure from Latvia, Fred Gosiewski, Springfield, Massachussetts , Paolo Guadagnoli from Rome and Massimo Benocci, Firenze in Italy, Wim Oolders from the Netherlands, Vasilis Deltsos from Greece, Paul Bailey from Hobart, Tasmania and Azizul Alam Al-Amin from Bangladesh.

We don't have time to read out all your names, but rest assured every letter has been welcomed and we do appreciate your concern. Some of correspondents spoke from personal experience, such as Nancy Witt from Irvine, California, USA who writes:

"I just want to send along a message to Praha, and say that, having very recently visited your beautiful city, and having met so many wonderful Czech people there, my prayers are going out to you all in this time... Here in California we have earthquakes and fire...we, too, know the force of nature is something to behold...but the power of the human spirit is even more awesome."

Many listeners have selflessly offered assistance, which we find very moving. Warren Ellison, a fire fighter from Halifax in West Yorkshire, UK, writes:

"Please send the sympathy of everyone working in Halifax Fire Station to all those affected by the flooding. If you know of any assistance that we might be able to give to your citizens please let us know."

Barbara Greck sends her sympathies and writes:

"I was planning on visiting Prague but my plans changed. I would have gladly filled sand bags to preserve the city, had I been a tourist caught in that situation."

And Jonathan Mathews sent us this email:

"Just two U.S. travellers in Europe wondering how we can help out in Prague? Please email any information..."

Actually, help is still needed in many parts of the country. The People in Need Foundation is recruiting volunteer workers all the time through their website. If you are in the country and would like to offer a hand in the clean-up work, try the foundation's website, www.pinf.cz

We have also been receiving offers of financial help, such at this one from Will Steer:

"I am not a wealthy person but I would like to make a modest contribution to any disaster fund the Government sets up. Please send me details if you are able."

Jim Wolford wants to know the same.

"Hello, we would like to help with a donation to help flooding victims. How and where do we send some money?"

Well, first of all thank you very much for you interest, your help would be greatly appreciated. Those of you who would like to contribute something towards the recovery of the flood-stricken areas can do so on the People in Need Foundation special account "SOS - floods". The account number is 334334334 and the bank code 0300. You will find all the information both on our website and on that of the foundation itself - www.pinf.cz. Another account has been set up by the government and the number is 9025001 / 0710.

Many listeners have also enquired about their friends or relatives in the Czech Republic, and wonder if they might have been affected by the flood. Ron Westwood writes:

"My wife has been trying, by both telephone and email, to reach her family members, who live in Prague 2 and Karany, near Celakovice. Are these areas severely affected by flooding? Are communications in these areas affected?"

If you can't get into contact with someone in the Czech Republic, it could just mean that their phone line isn't working. Thousands of telephone lines were down during the floods and some still have not been fixed. The best list of affected towns and villages we could find is at http://zaplavy.obce.cz

A lot of listeners wanted to know whether it was a good idea to come to the Czech Republic at the moment. Daphne Cortese writes:

"What is a good way to get real information on the conditions in Prague over the next two weeks so that we know whether or not to make our visit?"

And Charlie Maxwell sent us this query:

"Please could you inform me if the Railway Station is operating currently?"

All railway stations in Prague including the Main Railway station where most international trains depart from are operating normally. There are a few stretches of railroad in the country which were damaged by water but Czech Railways run special buses there instead.

Leonid Krys from New York, USA is coming to Prague and would like to know the following:

"We are going to stay in Mala Strana and could you please let us know if hotels in this area would be open at the end of the next month."

Most parts of Mala Strana were not damaged by the floods, and it is extremely unlikely that any hotels in the area would be still closed. The best thing would be to contact your travel agent or the hotels themselves. One thing we should make clear is that despite some problems, life in Prague has largely returned to normal.

I think it would be quite nice to end this week's Mailbox on this following quote from an email by Frank Koelewijn from Brussels, Belgium:

"My deepest respect to the unbeatable attitude of the Praha citizens during the flood. This is why people like me will continue to come back to the most beautiful city of Europe."

Thanks for that Frank, and we hope you enjoy many more enjoyable visits to Prague.

We're coming close to the end of today's Mailbox but before we sign off, let us quickly remind you of our website - www.radio.cz/english. It contains all our programmes either transcribed or in real audio, as well as other interesting information on the Czech Republic.

And don't forget our e-mail address - english@radio.cz. If you want to comment on individual articles published on our website, you can just click on the name of the author and your email will get straight to him or her.

For those of you who don't have access to the Internet, here's our postal address: Radio Prague English section, 120 99 Prague 2, Czech Republic.

That's all from us today from a rather narrow-focused edition of Mailbox, don't forget to tune in next time and we promise to talk about other things too, not just the floods.