News of Radio Prague

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Czech Republic hit by worst floods in over a century

A state of emergency is still in force in the Czech Republic where the capital Prague and many other parts of the country have been hit by the worst floods in more than a century. Over 200,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, 70,000 in Prague alone. Floodwaters and debris have smashed railway bridges, knocked out water treatment plants and closed roads throughout the country. At least ten people have died and two are missing. Damage has been estimated at hundreds of millions of crowns

Vltava falling, historic Old Town spared disaster

In Prague the river Vltava appears to be falling, after earlier fears it would engulf the city's historic Old Town. The last round of evacuations took place in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Residents of the Old Town and Josefov districts - home to Prague's ancient Jewish quarter - were forced to leave their homes, and emergency workers erected sandbag walls to protect the National Theatre and the Old Town Square. Streets in the Mala Strana, Karlin, Smichov and Holesovice districts are underwater.

Electricity, phone lines down, transport disrupted

Electricity and phone lines are still down in many parts of the capital. Czech Telecom says more than 50,000 fixed lines have had to be disconnected throughout the country, and mobile operators are also experiencing problems. Public transport in Prague has been further restricted, with flooding still reported in four metro stations.

Floods ravage country, some reluctant to leave homes

The floods have affected many areas of the Czech Republic. In southern and western Bohemia water levels are gradually falling, but other regions are bracing themselves for further floods. In the South Moravian town of Znojmo 5,000 residents have been evacuated as a flood wave approaches the town. Some of the most serious flooding is currently in Central Bohemia. The town centre of Kralupy nad Vltavou, a few kilometres north of Prague, is underwater and 3,000 people have been forced to leave their homes. Floods are expected in the northern town of Usti nad Labem but reports say residents are ignoring police appeals for them to move to temporary shelters.

Government to release emergency funds

The government is releasing 380 million crowns in immediate emergency aid, and more funds are to be made available if necessary. The European Commission is said to be considering ways of helping the Czech Republic and several European countries have also pledged assistance.

Prime Minister, President to meet Wednesday evening

President Vaclav Havel cut short his holiday in Portugal on Wednesday, and returned to Prague for talks with Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla. Earlier Mr Spidla appeared on television, appealing for people to remain calm, co-operate with the authorities and not hamper rescue efforts. In a statement broadcast by national television Mr Spidla thanked the Czech people for facing a grave situation with "great courage and great vigour". Mr Havel was later seen on television walking across Charles Bridge.

Emergency shelters set up throughout country

Emergency shelters have been set up in many parts of the country and psychologists are helping flood victims to deal with the crisis. Telephone help lines and counselling centres are working around the clock. The mayor of Prague has advised people not to return to their homes too soon, since parts of the Czech capital are expected to remain without electricity and gas, clean water and food supplies for some time.

Weather

Finally a look at the weather, the belt of rain which has plagued the south-western parts of the country is expected to gradually move east. Driving rain should be replaced by scattered showers. Temperature in the daytime on Thursday will peak at 22 degrees Celsius.