News of Radio Prague
Czech Republic hit by worst floods in over a century
A state of emergency is in force in the Czech Republic where the Czech capital Prague and other parts of the country have been hit by the worst floods in over a century. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes. In Prague the River Vltava broke its banks in the early afternoon spilling over into parts of the Old Town and flooding some residential areas on the riverside . The authorities ordered the evacuation of 50 thousand people from their homes before noon on Tuesday but many people were reluctant to move for fear of looting. Several cases of looting have already been reported. Electricity and phone lines are down in many parts of the Czech capital. Parts of Prague have been closed off, public transport is restricted and soldiers are patrolling the deserted areas in an effort to prevent further looting. Over one thousand soldiers, firefighters and thousands of volunteers are helping to deal with this natural disaster.
The situation is reported to be critical in other parts of the Czech Republic as well. Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes in south Bohemia where the city centres of Ceske Budejovice, Cesky Krumlov , Plzen and Strakonice are under water. Many of the smaller towns and villages in South Bohemia have been flooded or cut off by the flood. At least one evacuated village is reported to have been seriously damaged, with whole houses collapsing. Parts of North Bohemia and Moravia, the eastern part of the Czech Republic, are also effected, though to a lesser extent. Ten people are known to have been have been killed in the flood, and at least two people are reported missing at the present time.
Emergency shelters have been set up in many parts of the country and psychologists are helping flood victims to deal with the crisis. It is not yet clear how many people may be left homeless. According to the authorities it may take up to four days for water levels to return to normal. Telephone help lines and counseling centers are working around the clock. The mayor of Prague has advised people not to return to their homes prematurely since parts of the Czech capital are expected to remain without electricity and gas, clean water and food supplies for some time.
Emergency government session
Following an emergency government session on Tuesday Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla appealed on the public to cooperate with the authorities and not hamper rescue efforts. He said the government was releasing 380 million crowns for immediate expenditures and that more aid money would be made available in due time. The European Commission is also said to be considering ways of helping the Czech Republic. President Havel is cutting short his holiday in Portugal and will return to Prague on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, meteorologists, who are providing hourly weather forecasts, expect the belt of rain which has plagued in particular the south-western parts of the country to gradually move east. The persistent rain should be replaced by scattered showers which should help the situation. However water levels will not drop immediately since dams along the Vltava river are having to open their gates periodically to regulate levels and the earth is saturated by days of torrential rainfall. Wednesday should bring partly cloudy to overcast skies, rain in places and day temps between 16 and 21 degs C.