News of Radio Prague

Police investigate accident at Spolana

The police has launched an investigation into a chlorine leak at the flooded Spolana chemical plant north of Prague. The second chlorine leak in ten days has alarmed people living in the vicinity and government officials have slammed the plant's management for allegedly violating public safety norms. A third degree chemical alert was called in the north Bohemian town of Neratovice and several nearby villages on Friday following an accident at Spolana in which several hundered kilograms of poisonous chlorine gas were released into the air. A Spolana representative later admitted to other flood related problems, saying that that when the plant was flooded close to 80 tons of chlorine had leaked into the river Elbe.

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 further contamination of the river Elbe if poisonous dioxins and 25,000 kg of mercury stored at the Spolana chemical plant should leak.

Senate debates post-flood situation

The Upper House of Parliament, the Senate, held an extraordinary session devoted to the post-flood situation on Sunday. Senators observed a moment of silence for flood victims before opening the debate on flood related issues. In his speech to the Senate, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla described the floods as the worst natural disaster in the country's history and he thanked Czechs for facing the crisis with "stamina and courage". The only criticism voiced by the Prime Minister in connection with the floods was directed at the management of the Spolana chemical plant in north Bohemia which he said had neglected its duties resulting in a serious public threat. The recent floods affected 10 of the country's 14 regions. Six regions were very badly hit. 99 towns and villages were underwater. 14 people died in the floods and over 220,000 people were evacuated from their homes. The overall damage has been estimated at around 90 billion Czech crowns.

No sign of post-flood epidemic

Hygiene officers say that measures to prevent an epidemic of infectious diseases in the wake of the floods have so far proved successful. No new cases of hepatitis A have been reported and the vaccination of high risk groups continues. This includes children in the 3 to 7 age bracket living in the affected areas since they cannot be expected to follow strict hygiene instructions . Paramedics are also distributing gamma globulin as a form of protection. In the flooded regions the school year will be starting later and parents have been advised to send young children to stay with friends and relatives while the risk of infection is still high. Many European states have also offered to host children from the flooded regions.

Waldner and Svoboda "build trust"

The Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero Waldner met briefly with her new Czech counterpart Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda at the European Forum in Alpbach on Sunday. It was described as an informal meeting intended to "build trust". Both sides avoided debate on two outstanding controversies that have soured bilateral relations for many months: the Temelin nuclear power plant and the Benes decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of 2.5 million ethnic Germans from post war Czechoslovakia.

They spoke about the post-flood situation in Central Europe and the general state of bilateral relations. The Czech foreign minister expressed the hope that the meeting in Alpbach would mark the beginning of a new era in bilateral relations, in which the two countries would focus more on things they have in common than on those which divide them.

And finally a quick look at the weather forecast:

Monday should bring clear to partly cloudy skies with day temps between 25 and 30 degs C. We can expect some heat-storms in the late afternoon hours. Tuesday's temps have been forecast at between 23 and 28 degs C.