Worst flooding in Prague in more than a hundred years
The Czech capital city Prague has been hit by its worst flood in more than a hundred years. 50, 000 residents have been ordered by authorities to evacuate their homes, and both citizens and tourists have been repeatedly warned to stay away from danger areas that include parts of the historic centre. Earlier in the day I spoke to my colleague Rob Cameron, who was at the scene:
"Jan, I'm standing just outside the National Theatre, which is right on the embankment, right on the river Vltava. In front of me incredible scenes really: thousands and thousands of people are thronging the embankment - I've never seen anything like it. The bridges are full of people all staring into the water: some people are taking pictures, people are on their mobile phones, and there is this huge sense of anticipation here."
It's quite ironic in a way because this morning Prague Mayor Igor Nemec called for up to 50, 000 Prague residents to evacuate, as well there have been repeated calls for residents as well as tourists to avoid possible danger areas. One would think that they wouldn't be hanging around the Vltava river...
"That's right I think - sorry, excuse the sirens behind me now - but it seems those calls for people to leave the centre of Prague have been ignored. It's quite the opposite: it seems more and more people are coming into the city centre, lining the streets and walking up and down the embankment. Those calls for people to stay away from the city centre seem not to have been heeded."
Have you seen any evacuation at all taking place?
"I have, actually, I was wandering around the streets, just on the bank of the Vltava a while ago...I saw people leaving their homes, I saw one girl walking across the bridge carrying a guinea pig, leaving for safer and drier shores. I've also seen a lot of businesses shutting up shops, they've been sand-bagging the doors, obviously in anticipation of the floods."
They're saying that this flood is the worst to hit Prague in more than a hundred years...what does that actually mean? How much water is coming in?
"Well, it's defined as being twenty times the normal amount of water in the river - that's called a century flood, a flood that on average happens once in a century. The last one this bad was in 1954 - that one caused huge amounts of damage - this is one could be worse..."
Aside from the threat to human life there is also concern that parts of Prague's historic centre could be seriously damaged as well...
"That's right - the historic Charles Bridge has already been closed, they have mounted cranes on some of the other bridges - I can see one in front of me - they are to remove debris from the water to stop it from damaging the columns of the bridges...further in town a lot of the buildings have been sand-bagged... really all we can do now is wait and see."