Snow and ice falling off Prague roofs poses real threat to residents

Photo: CTK

The heaviest snowfalls to hit Prague in thirty years have been making the life of Prague residents difficult, and sometimes even dangerous. Currently, people’s biggest concern is that pieces of snow and ice are melting and falling off roofs around the city, causing serious damage and injuries.

Beware,  falling ice!  (Photo: CTK)
After nearly two weeks of more or less uninterrupted heavy snowfalls, a thaw has arrived in the Czech Republic. While temperatures above zero have melted some of the snow that was blocking sidewalks in the capital, Prague residents are now in danger of being hit by pieces of ice or snow that for the past few days have been falling off buildings across the city. On Monday, a baby boy suffered serious head injuries after being hit by falling snow. A nine-year old boy and an elderly woman also ended up in hospital after getting direct hits.

Not all owners have installed warning signs in front of their buildings to alert pedestrians about the danger. But they are legally responsible for cleaning the snow and ice off their roofs and liable if someone gets injured. Some Prague residents say that many house owners were simply taken by surprise and are unprepared to deal with the issue.

Photo: CTK
“I think that snowfalls like this happen once a decade in Prague, I think they probably just didn’t expect this to happen rather than being irresponsible.” (middle aged woman)

“The city sends people out sometimes. But in my opinion, it’s the responsibility of the house owners, and they don’t care at all, and that’s bad.” (middle aged man)

“The situation has been tragic of course, but I was really glad that the firefighters responded to it so quickly.” (middle aged man)

The city has created a phone line where house owners can get useful information, and over a 1000 Prague residents have already taken advantage of the service, says the Prague town hall’s spokesman, Jiří Wolf.

“At this time, the most frequent questions asked concern snow on rooftops. People ask for help and we refer them to Prague’s firefighters or private companies that deal with the problem. In the past two days, huge lumps of snow have been falling from roofs all over Prague, and it’s truly a danger for pedestrians.”

Photo: CTK
Aside from posing a threat to passersby, the falling snow and ice have also damaged a number of parked cars. Iveta Kenety, who lives in central Prague, says her family car was one of several dozen in Prague that took a hit.

“It fell right on the car, on the roof and the front shield window. It shattered the glass and also completely damaged the structure of the roof. The mechanic said that the cost of the repairs would be higher than the value of the car.”

Another factor complicating the situation is the recent shift of legal responsibility in clearing the sidewalks. Under the old legislation, house owners had to make sure that the sidewalk in front of their building was cleared. Now, cities and municipalities are responsible for maintenance. The Prague authorities have sent over two thousand workers onto the streets to clear the snow. Mr. Wolf believes that Prague has been handling the situation well, but additional help may be needed to cope with what is the heaviest snowfall that the city has seen in 30 years.

Experts say that at this time, there are over 3 billion cubic meters of snow on the ground in the Czech Republic, the equivalent of 42 liters of water per square meter. Due to another cold spell on the way there is at least no imminent danger of floods.