U.S. embassy raising funds for post-flood aid

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The U.S. embassy in Prague has been more than actively involved in trying to raise U.S. financial aid and humanitarian aid to the Czech Republic, recovering from recent catastrophic floods. Earlier today I spoke to U.S. embassy official Lisa Helling and asked her how the U.S. embassy's activities in finding and providing assistance were developing...

"At this stage the embassy's primary activity has been in the area of providing humanitarian and public health relief - one of our first efforts when the ambassador came back from the U.S. - and he's travelled to several different cities to find out what the principle needs were, and we've been working very hard to find medicines and vaccines. In fact, tomorrow there is a flight from the U.S. charitable organisation Americare which is bringing in a shipment of medicines, vaccines, and other humanitarian assistance. We're also working very closely with the American Friends of the Czech Republic in the United States who have established an account for fund-raising, and are working very hard within the Czech-American community to gather funds to provide assistance to those who suffered in the floods."

What are some of the other concrete things that funds will be going towards? I'm thinking now of the U.S. embassy offer to "adopt" Kampa island - one of the most popular tourist areas and one of the hardest hit areas by the floods...

"Yes, the ambassador's very first initiative was to establish a team of volunteers from the U.S. embassy to help clean, initially, Kampa museum. For the last two weeks or so there have been embassy volunteers who have gone to help clean away the results of the flood. Once that project is concluded our next step will be to help with fund-raising and other assistance to not only to restore the park but also to help the museum reopen. The museum felt that it still needed more time to assess what the damages were, before they will know what kind of additional help they will be needing."

One more question: is it possible to assess the kind of impact that the flooding in the Czech Republic had on the U.S. through the media? Is it possible to gauge the reaction?

"You know, the initial reaction was of course that people saw a lot on the news about the floods and I think they were very much aware about how serious they were. The contacts that we've had of course have been to know initially whether people were alright or not, and then we've had a lot of expressions of support trying to figure out how people could help where they can. The one thing that we're concerned about - and that we are going to do our best to try and turn around - is that the most recent image of the Czech Republic that many people have is of many important tourist places being under water. We feel that the Czech people have recovered from that very quickly and we want to send the message that Americans need to keep the Czech Republic on their list of places to visit."

Just one important point to add - it's still too early to be able to tabulate the total amount of U.S. financial aid coming in to the Czech Republic, but it is estimated that all the assistance involved will reach into millions of dollars in support.