Four days after the disastrous earthquake hit Iran, the rising death toll and international humanitarian efforts continue to make headlines in the Czech papers. LIDOVE NOVINY and PRAVO write that Czech rescuers, who arrived in the worst-affected city of Bam three days ago, managed to rescue a woman from under the rubble.
Onto domestic stories, and PRAVO reports that people in the northern town of Most are in a state of shock over the death of an 18-year-old youth. The daily writes that a group of young men tried to force their way into a local disco on Friday night but were stopped by a security guard who fired several shots at them. One of the youths was hit in the chest and died on the spot, another one suffered serious injuries and was rushed to hospital. PRAVO writes that Friday's tragic incident confirms a growing trend of aggression among young people in the Czech Republic.
MLADA FRONTA DNES recommends readers get their wallets and purses ready as 2004 is about to begin. The paper advises Czechs to make all important phone calls before the end of the year, stockpile cigarettes and spirits and surf the internet as much as possible before January 1st, when higher VAT on certain goods and services comes into effect. On top of that, many towns and cities are increasing the price of public transport tickets, dog licences and fees for rubbish collection.
Staying with money matters, LIDOVE NOVINY reports that the sales have started. The prices of certain goods, especially winter clothes and shoes have been reduced by up to 70 percent. The paper quotes a spokeswoman for Tesco Stores, one of the country's largest retail chains, as saying that their seasonal sales were launched on December 26, and the number of shoppers rose by 40 percent. "Czech customers have become used to end-of-the-year sales and they're certainly not going to miss them this year," the paper quotes Tesco's spokeswoman as saying.
LIDOVE NOVINY also warns that the Czech Republic is facing a flu epidemic. So far, only the region of Usti nad Labem has been hit but the number of patients is currently on the rise in East Bohemia. In other parts of the country, the epidemic is expected to break out during the second week of January after children go back to school after the Christmas holidays. Experts say they have detected a common A type of the flu virus in Czech patients, which means those who were vaccinated in time should be protected against the illness this year.
PRAVO features a photo of President Vaclav Klaus in full skiing gear, riding a chairlift in the Krkonose Mountains. The paper reports that the president did not jump the queue for the lift as most Czechs do, nor did he get any discount. The head of the Harrachov ski resort Jiri Krejci tells PRAVO that Mr Klaus has been coming to Harrachov for years, and that his presence does not affect the life of the town or the ski resort.
And on a related topic, LIDOVE NOVINY reports that for the first time ever, the Czech president will deliver his New Year's speech live. So far, the citizens of Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic could hear or watch only pre-recorded presidential addresses on radio and television. The paper writes that the 1st of January, 2004 will bring more than one change in the tradition.
Not only will the speech be delivered live but it will also be broadcast by both the public-service television and a commercial station. Listeners will have a chance to hear the ten-minute address live on two channels of Czech Radio and also on the Czech-language service of the BBC.