The EC Vice-President and Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, Guenter Verheugen, is on a one-day visit to Prague. The former EU commissioner for enlargement is due to hold talks with politicians and entrepreneurs. At a meeting with Czech Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Jiri Havel, the liberalisation of the energy market dominated the talks. Mr Verheugen is also due to visit the Senate, participate in a discussion on economic growth and employment in the European Union, and meet Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. This is Mr Verheugen's first official visit to Prague since EU expansion in 2004.
Thousands of children are expected to spend Friday night at some 500 libraries, schools, hospitals, and other institutions across the country. The event called Hans Christian Andersen night is being held in the Czech Republic for the sixth year to mark the anniversary of the birth of the Danish storybook writer Anderson. The children write and stage plays, take part in contests, sing, dance, read fairy tales, and spend the night in sleeping bags.
At a special session on Thursday, Cabinet earmarked 380 million crowns (15.5 million US dollars) to aid the regions affected by the floods. The money is to be used for mobile homes, food, the protection of property, and the reconstruction of damaged roads, for example. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, who cut short a visit to Egypt in order to attend the government meeting, was also flown to southern Moravia in a helicopter on Thursday night to inspect the extent of damage caused.
The capital city, where water levels of the Vltava River have been constantly rising, is also on alert. Though the situation has not been declared critical, several museums have moved their exhibits to other venues and the Prague Zoo is preparing to evacuate its animals. Mayor Pavel Bem has assured Prague residents that the city is well prepared for the threat of flooding.
Dozens of municipalities around the country are on high flood alert, as rain and melting snow continues to swell rivers. Several thousand soldiers and emergency crews are busy reinforcing river banks, securing flood defences, clearing blocked roads, and helping residents leave their homes. The worst affected areas are southern Moravia's Znojmo region around the River Dyje and the northern city Usti nad Labem. Over 10,000 people have already been evacuated but local authorities expect that number to rise as more rain is forecast until the end of the week. Four casualties have also been reported.
The head of the Morava River basin water management company, Miroslav Konecny, has been sacked. Mr Konecny was dismissed by Agriculture Minister Jan Mladek on Friday after several municipalities affected by the floods complained that they were left in the dark about rising water levels. Konecny will be replaced on Saturday by copany vice president for finances Pavel Mylbachr.
Deputy Prime Minister Zdenek Skromach intends to take legal action against a popular TV investigative programme that tied him to a controversial privatisation deal. On Wednesday, TV Nova's Na Vlastni Oci magazine said Mr Skromach was involved in the Unipetrol privatisation negotiations, widely believed to have been lined with corruption and shady business deals. Mr Skromach, who is also Labour and Social Affairs Minister, says he was never involved in the negotiations and will lodge a criminal complaint against the accusations.
Over forty municipalities around the country are still on high flood alert, as their rivers swell due to rain and melted snow, the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute has announced. The worst affected area is Moravia's Znojmo region around the River Dyje, where over 10,000 people have been evacuated. Local authorities say another 20,000 may have to leave their homes if things get worse. The northern city Usti nad Labem, and several other towns and villages in the region, have also begun evacuating residents with disabilities.
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