Metro management says system was secured in time

Prague's metro

The catastrophic floods which knocked out much of Prague's underground system also swept away the myth of an infallible system which would protect thousands against a nuclear war. The metro staff, who believed in the system, are now coming to terms with the disillusionment and are trying to find out why exactly the protection was not so watertight after all. Pavla Horakova has the following report.

Prague's metro
After the flood, the metro management had to face a number of accusations; for example that the system was sealed off too late or that it had not been properly checked in the last few years. The management deny such claims, adding that even if the protective measures had been taken several hours earlier, it would have made no difference because water would have leaked in anyway. Josef Nemecek is one of the metro's technical directors. He says that in the critical hours there was no human failure.

"I can say on behalf of the metro management that we tried to deal with the unprecedented situation according to existing regulations. I think we did even more than the regulations stipulate. We tried to keep water out of the metro but nevertheless it got in and the damage is considerable. I can say on behalf of our staff that everybody did their best even under critical conditions."

The metro was conceived by its communist-era designers as a shelter which would protect people from a nuclear explosion or withstand a massive flood-wave caused by broken dams on the Vltava river. Josef Nemecek says that a sudden flood-wave is one thing and the continuous pressure of tons of water for several days is another. Whether that fact caused the leakage isn't clear yet. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The metro staff together with the police and divers are investigating the tunnels and stations, searching for that weakest link but so far they can't put their finger on it or tell how many there might have been. Josef Nemecek again.

Prague's metro
"I don't know how the water got into the system. We still haven't been able to reach the critical spots where we could find an answer to what was the cause of the flood in the metro. We can only say that we used all the protective measures and we took even more to save the metro but the system failed all the same."

Although the metro was supposed to survive nuclear war, it was never conceived as a peacetime anti-flood shelter and what the metro staff say sounds like common sense: If there's a flood, run for the hills, not into a tunnel.