A strong explosion rocked a building and surroundings in Divadelní Street in Prague’s Old Town near the Smetana embankment on Monday morning, blowing out windows and sending debris into the streets. Response teams including fire fighters, ambulance crews and police arrived at the scene within minutes. The explosion, thought to have been caused by a gas leak, injured 43 people, at least one of them seriously. A good number were treated in hospital. Many of the injuries were cuts from broken glass. Initially there were fears that individuals could be buried under rubble at the site: but a search found no one, nor is anyone unaccounted for, the city's police chief confirmed. Both the Motol and Vojenská hospitals during the morning set aside scheduled operations to provide additional emergency assistance, if needed.
In related news, Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda, visited the site of the blast on Monday and confirmed that early analysis had shown there was a danger the building hit by the explosion could collapse. Stress analysis showed that one of the building's walls was pushed forward five centimetres. Mayor Svoboda said that the construction and engineering company Metrostav has been commissioned to brace the building to prevent it from collapsing. Others who visited the epicentre on Monday were Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Interior Minister Jan Kubice.
A two-kilometre stretch of the Prague embankment – from the Smetana
embankment to Palach Square – as well as Narodní třída and smaller
streets in the surrounding area, have been closed to traffic. There were
several reports over the course of Monday morning that gas could be
detected in the air, and several sources said there was a danger of an
explosion taking place, leading to an evacuation of locals and bystanders.
In the afternoon, traffic on the Smetana embankment was allowed to resume but only briefly after more gas was registered by a monitoring vehicle. City Hall has set up a crisis hotline – 800 100 991 – for those needing assistance and is ready to set up a shelter, if necessary. The building in question was not residential, however, housing mostly offices.
Students, lecturers and other staff at the FAMU film school and Charles University’s Faculty of Social Sciences, both located in the direct vicinity of Divadlení 5 where Monday’s explosion took place, were among those evacuated from the area. According to the dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Jakub Končelík, between 300 and 400 students were evacuated from the building. The film academy had windows broken in the blast and was also emptied. Staff and visitors were also evacuated from the nearby National Theatre and the Academy of Sciences. The shockwave reached as far as the National Theatre, shattering some glass at the theatre’s Nová scéna (New Stage). Students were among the first to post photos and news of the accident on the social networks.
The Czech Office for the Protection of Competition has cancelled a 25-million crown tender by the country’s prison service to buy transceivers. The anti-monopoly watchdog said the prison service failed to specify its criteria for the winning bid which made the procurement project non-transparent and could have affected the choice of the most advantageous offer. The prison service picked the firm RCD Radiokomunikace to deliver 3,000 transceivers and 250 base stations; however, it will now have to evaluate all the bids again.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has said in an interview for the Czech news website idnes that Livia Klausová (former First Lady of the Czech Republic) would be warmly welcomed in his country if she were named the next Czech ambassador to Bratislava. He added his view that whoever had put forward her name showed a “great understanding for Czech-Slovak ties”. Livia Klausová, herself Slovak by birth and the wife of former president Václav Klaus, was backed for the post weeks ago by her husband’s successor, Miloš Zeman. But the country’s Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg came out resolutely against, saying she lacked the necessary experience. The disagreement between Mr Schwarzenberg and the president has since escalated in the media and remains unresolved. A number of pundits have suggested the row has hurt the country internationally.
Prague High State attorney Lenka Bradáčová on Monday repeated a charge that some members of the anti-corruption police tried to gather compromising material against her as well as to fabricate a case against her husband to try and discredit her personally. Speaking to journalists, the high state attorney said there had been differences between herself and the anti-corruption unit for some time, saying that criminal police had – for example – conducted a number of investigations without any oversight by the state attorney’s office. Tomáš Martinec, the outgoing head of the unit, has strongly denied the accusations anyone had plotted against Ms Bradáčová; he is, however, stepping down at the end of April over the dispute.
Residents of No. 8 in Přednadraží Street, a devastated building in Ostrava, in the east of the country, signed new leases on Monday with building owner Oldřich Roztočil. The owner told journalists that 11 out of 14 apartments were taken, insisting all except one were fully habitable. Rent, plus utilities, reportedly comes to 6,500 crowns a month. Renters however will no longer be able to count on subsidies as the site is no longer registered as a tenement building. The city is insisting that a recent court decision waiving a fine for the tenement’s owner’s company had nothing to with – and in no way invalidated – existing eviction notices.
The police have apprehended two men who broke into a Prague jewellery store after hours on April 9 and stole more than a million crowns worth of gold, silver jewellery and precious gems. The spokesman for the city police force, Tomáš Hulan, confirmed on the internet that both had past criminal records and had served time in prison, which is where the two met. The suspects allegedly threw some of their loot in the Vltava River; a police diving team may be dispatched to search for it; if found guilty, each suspect could face up to eight years in prison.
Petr Čech chalked up his 13th clean sheet this season at the weekend in Chelsea’s 2:0 win over Swansea. His record after nine seasons in the English Premiership stands at 141, beating retired player David Seaman’s record to put Čech into third spot, idnes reports. Only goalkeepers Mark Schwarzer of Fulham (148) and David James (173) have clinched more.