Thousands evacuated in Znojmo ahead of flood threat

Znojmo, photo: CTK

Four years ago the Czech Republic was hit by massive floods which led to mass evacuations and millions in lost property - now, at least in parts of the country, it's happening again. Wednesday evening with the Dyje River rising to dangerous levels, the town of Znojmo in south Moravia ordered the evacuation of more than ten thousand inhabitants.

Znojmo, photo: CTK
Just a little while ago, Radio Prague spoke with Petra Kochankova, a Znojmo resident. She described the situation on the ground:

"On Wednesday police and fire fighters monitored levels here on the Dyje river and the news came in the evening that we had to evacuate at the latest by seven this morning. A 200-year flood is expected from the nearby Vranov Dam. You might say that the news came 'somewhat' late - even in the media yesterday nobody was 'really' saying that our area might be at greater threat. On the other hand, when the highest flood warning was announced, the evacuation itself went fairly smoothly, it was disciplined and calm. In a sense you can say we kind of expected this, it was a long winter with plenty of snow, and we experienced something similar four years ago."

But, for Znojmo - a town with a thousand year history - the flooding this time is likely to be worse, a lot worse. The flood wave from the Vranov dam will hit not only lower parts of the town but also hit other nearby villages. And, experts say it will reach the famous Nove Mlyny nature reservoirs by midnight. Thousands of people along further towns will evacuate, and the Czech Army has had to step in, with the Regional Governor Stanislav Juranek calling a danger warning for the entire south Moravia region. That warning could stay in effect for days, even weeks.

Photo: CTK
"At this time all indicators show there will be more water than in 2002. That's the prognosis. On the other hand, the situation is different: anti-flood barriers were since put into place. At the same time, construction on some was not completed, so will be a factor."

In all, some 80 municipalities around the country are now at the highest alert, with serious flooding witnessed in the basins of the Morava, Vltava, and Elbe rivers. In Prague work continued through the night securing flood defences.

Photo: CTK
But, there was at least some good news: water levels in Prague have dropped by 20 centimetres. Sensitive areas like the Prague Zoo, hit heavily four years ago, are also prepared. At the low-lying Spolana chemical plant north of Prague, just off the Elbe River, operations have already stopped. The plant's spokesman Jan Martinek:

"The water has so far stayed within the Elbe basin but we are expecting it will flood. Within the Spolana site we are expecting around 10 centimetres. It shouldn't rise more than that."

That then is the situation as it stands. The prime minister, returning from a trip to Egypt, is holding a crisis meeting on Thursday to plan further steps. For those in the crisis areas - they can now only watch and wait. It is all too familiar a situation: some say if hit - they will not return to damaged homes. It's simply too difficult to bear the effects of flooding a second or even third time around.