News of Radio Prague

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Chemical alert in Neratovice

A third degree chemical alert was called in the north Bohemian town of Neratovice on Thursday following a leak of poisonous chlorine gas from the flood damaged Spolana chemical factory. The inhabitants of the town were ordered off the streets and warned to keep their windows closed. Chemical experts who measured the amount of chlorine in the air for several hours said evacuation would not be necessary since the amount measured was not considered a health risk. Chlorine is deadly to humans in high concentrations and was used as a chemical weapon in World War One. Greenpeace activists have expressed concern about possible contamination of the river Elbe if poisonous dioxins and 250,000 kg of mercury stored at the Spolana chemical plant should leak.

North Bohemia still bracing for the worst

As water levels in south and central Bohemia recede, towns along the river Elbe in north Bohemia are still bracing for the worst . The swollen river is expected to peak sometime on Friday. Emergency crews and volunteers have been working hard to minimize the damage. In the town of Usti nad Labem the banks of the river are piled high with sandbags and the town's mayor has asked the defense ministry for armored vehicles to help anchor barges on the river.

Man killed by shrapnel

A man watching the police blow up a stray cargo boat on the river Elbe on Thursday morning was killed by shrapnel. A special police commando was ordered to sink four cargo boats which had floated out of control in the floods and threatened to damage bridges along the river. The man was one of several onlookers who gathered to witness the operation but it is not clear whether he disregarded police instructions and crossed into an off limits zone for a better view. He is said to have died on the spot.

Danger of flood damaged houses collapsing

The mayor of Prague Igor Nemec has warned the inhabitants of evacuated districts not to return to their homes before they are declared safe. Two four storey houses in the flooded district of Karlin collapsed early on Thursday causing concern over potential casualties. Rescue workers searching the area , said no one appeared to have been hurt in the incident since the houses had been standing empty, slated for demolition. The authorities are now worried about the state of other flood damaged buildings whose inhabitants might have disregarded the evacuation order and remained in their homes.

First overall flood damage estimate

The London based Economic Intelligence Unit has issued the first overall estimate of the damage caused by the floods in southern and central Bohemia, putting the number at two billion US dollars or 64 billion Czech crowns. The report says that although the damage wrought by the floods is enormous it need not adversely affect the country's economic growth.

Emergency aid

The European Commission and a number of European states have already provided the Czech Republic with emergency aid. The EC has put 48 million Euro /1.5 billion crowns/ at Prague's immediate disposal. The money is to be used for restoring communications and deliveries of clean water to the districts damaged by the flood. The president of the European Commission Romano Prodi is expected to visit the Czech Republic on Friday to inspect the flood damaged areas. France has sent two hundred heavy duty water pumps and emergency aid supplies. Denmark and Sweden have sent a team of experts and dispatched two truckloads of aid to Prague.

Weather

Friday should bring intervals of rain and shine with day temps between 19 and 24 degs C. The weekend is expected to bring sunny and warm weather which should help the clean up operation underway in southern and central Bohemia. Day temps on Saturday between 22 and 26 degs, on Sunday between 24 and 28 degs C.