Powerful blast in central Prague leaves dozens injured

Photo: CTK

A strong explosion rocked the centre of Prague on Monday morning, leaving dozens of people injured. The blast, which the authorities say may have been caused by a gas leak, severely damaged a building on the edge of Prague’s Old Town. Rescue workers are now searching the rubble for any people who might be trapped inside.

Photo: CTK
The massive explosion occurred shortly before 10 AM inside a building in Divadelní Street in central Prague, near the National Theatre and a block away from the embankment of the Vltava. The blast shattered windows in many building in the area, and the shockwave was felt as far as the other bank of the river where people said they felt the tremor.

The blast occurred in close vicinity to the FAMU film school. The school’s dean, Pavel Jech, describes what happened.

“There was a very strong explosion which shook the building and caused some windows to burst. The explosion in fact occurred several buildings away from the school but for people who were inside it felt like it was right next door.

“Fortunately, we have no information about any injuries in the film school itself. The whole building has been searched and completely evacuated. No one was injured; people were just in a state of surprise and shock but there were no physical injuries in the school itself.”

Around 35 people were lightly wounded in the blast while one person suffered more serious injuries. They were treated in nearby hospitals. Zdeněk Schwarz is the head of Prague’s emergency medical service.

Photo: CTK
“Most people suffered light injuries such as abrasions and cuts caused by shattered glass, also ear injuries caused by the shock wave. These are light wounds, but some people might have been wounded more seriously which is something we will only determine after they are examined in hospitals.”

Emergency response teams are now searching for any people who might be trapped under the rubble of the building at the centre of the explosion, which is located behind the famous Café Slavia.

The authorities believe a gas leak is the most like cause of the explosion, and several witnesses said they had smelled gas in the area. Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda arrived at the scene some 90 minutes after the blast.

“There is a high concentration of gas which complicates the work of rescue workers. We cannot search the building with dogs as they would not be able to find anyone because of the smell of gas. So we are waiting for the gas pipes to be closed.”

Bohuslav Svoboda,  photo: CTK
Immediately after the explosion, the police sealed off the area for all traffic. A few hours later, trams were allowed to return to Národní třída and a nearby bridge across the Vltava. However, the streets in the immediate vicinity remain closed as the authorities continue to search the site.