Press Review

The floods in Central Europe remain the dominant topic in every Czech paper.

The floods in Central Europe remain the dominant topic in every Czech paper. The snapshots on Thursdays front pages are reminiscent of a war zone. They show soldiers dressed in protective gear and people wearing hygiene masks and rubber gloves sifting through the debris of collapsed buildings. " The inhabitants of Karlin face up to the worst" reads a headline in Pravo.

The papers all feature dozens of agonizing reports about people who have lost everything in the floods. Young couples who are shortly expecting a baby and whose homes are no longer habitable, old people whom the flood will force into an old age home because they are no longer able to repay a government loan. People who have lost their pets, people who have returned to their houses to find them marked by a cross and slated for demolition.

Pravo says that even strong and active individuals, members of rescue teams, firefighters and policemen suffer from flood trauma symptoms and should not feel bad about seeking professional advice. In addition to the dozens of help lines available, new ones are being set up every day, Pravo says. The interior ministry and the army now offer crisis help lines as well.

In an effort to show people a light at the end of the tunnel, Lidove noviny features a lengthy report from the Moravian village Troubky which was completely destroyed in the 1997 floods. Snapshots show the villagers happily settled in their new homes, but some of the inner scars clearly remain.

"You feel down for a long time," one of the villagers says. "In Troubky quite a few marriages broke up after the flood, many people had to get psychological help and even today when it starts raining everyone suddenly falls silent and watches the sky wondering whether history will repeat itself."

As people dry out their homes and personal belongings bankers are busy drying out heaps of wet bank notes, says Mlada fronta Dnes. Millions of crowns in bank notes have already been "spun dry" and "ironed out" under heavy security.

The "drying out operation" is still underway in a number of places, the paper says, but financial institutions refuse to provide any details for security reasons.

Hospodarske noviny reports that the Czech government has already released a billion crowns in emergency aid and is re-drafting next year's state budget in view of the flood-incurred expenditures. Individuals and institutions offer various forms of assistance via the press. And the papers themselves report on their own activities in this respect. For instance Mlada fronta Dnes has contributed a million crowns and the well known Czech car manufacturer Skoda has offered to lend a thousand Skoda cars free of charge to Skoda car owners whose cars were destroyed in the floods.

Pravo carries an interview with the former mayor of Prague Jan Kasl in which he assesses the efficiency of the evacuation process. Mr. Kasl says that while emergency crews, the police and firefighters passed the test with flying colors, communication with the public could have been better. Things could have been said with greater emphasis, more often and elsewhere, the former mayor of Prague notes. He says that the greatest disappointment of all was the flooding of the Prague metro, partly due to human error. The idea of the metro as a safe haven in times of crisis has now been proven a myth, Kasl says.