Press Review

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Although more than a week has passed since the worst floods in the country's history, Monday's papers still carry plenty of bad news. Pravo, which occasionally does some investigative reporting, writes that according to available information hundreds of lives were put at risk because the Prague subway closed down 35 hours later than emergency regulations require.

Although more than a week has passed since the worst floods in the country's history, Monday's papers still carry plenty of bad news. Pravo, which occasionally does some investigative reporting, writes that according to available information hundreds of lives were put at risk because the Prague subway closed down 35 hours later than emergency regulations require.

According to the city hall's emergency plans, the subway should have closed its doors to the public when the flow of the Vltava river reached 1500 cubic metres per second. This limit was reached on Monday August 12th at 11 am but the subway waited until 10 pm the next day to close down. By that time both employees and passengers lives were in serious danger, the paper says, noting that in addition to risking passengers lives, the subway management wasted precious time which should have been used to prevent flooding.

Even more shocking news has emerged in the wake of another chlorine gas leak at the Spolana chemical plant north of Prague. This latest accident , in which several hundred kilograms of chlorine gas leaked from the plant, has revealed fully the extent of the danger which Spolana presents. Lidove noviny carries a snapshot of crops scorched by chlorine, while Hospodarske noviny shows chemical experts entering the site in protective gear. The papers all criticize the plant's management for issuing a public warning two hours after the leak occurred.

The papers have all devoted plenty of space to the problem, explaining the danger of chlorine gas for humans and crops. And there are plenty of scathing editorial columns. "In World War One generals used chlorine as a weapon against the enemy. Eighty years later the Spolana chemical plant is doing much the same to people living in the vicinity" says Mlada fronta Dnes , in an article entitled "Do we want to be Europe's sewer? The paper notes that the locals who considered Spolana to be "their plant" and resented any criticism have now turned against its management and no longer trust the information they get.

Lidove noviny notes that the Spolana plant is so notorious that kids are playing a new Internet game called the Chlorine Cloud. "You're a poisonous cloud that's managed to sneak out of Spolana. No one knows you're free - so do your worst" is the instruction that a player gets at the outset. The idea of course is to gas as many people and fields of crops as possible.

Another attention grabbing front page story is the mystery illness of Slovak President Rudolf Schuster.

Pravo reports that in spite of having conducted extensive tests doctors are still unable to say what ails the head of state. His family is convinced that President Schuster had been intentionally poisoned and doctors have not ruled out the possibility, the paper notes. In fact the president's son has already filed charges against an unknown culprit.

Lidove noviny has devoted a page to the start of the new school year on September 1st informing parents what books school-goers need and what stickers are now in fashion on bags and pencil cases. It's a return to normal life for many kids but some have had their holidays extended due to the floods. In Prague alone, 9 schools have had to extend the summer holidays by a month, another five by a fortnight.