The authorities in Prague are considering more evacuations as the Vltava River in the capital continues to rise. Water levels on the river was originally expected to peak at around 7 am on Monday but some of its tributaries are still rising. Acting Prague Mayor Tomáš Hudeček more parts of Smíchov, in Prague 5, could be evacuated. An emergency council of the City Hall convened at noon but a decision on Smíchov was not taken.
Families who lost homes or saw serious damage will be able to apply for financial relief in the form of an immediate payment of 51,150 crowns provided by the state. The news was announced by the spokesman for the central employment office Jiří Reichl; applicants can apply at their local employment office branch. The spokesman said additional funds were being prepared for release to villages which would allow them to hire additional hands in planned clean-up operations. The state regularly provides financial relief in cases of flooding and other natural disasters.
Fire fighters helped evacuate more than 7,000 people on Sunday and Monday
from areas hit by the floods, in the region of central, northern and
western Bohemia, including parts of the Czech capital. Teams of fire
fighters were also instrumental in putting up anti-flood barriers. In
Prague, the Hostivař and Záběhlice neighbourhoods in the southeast of
the city were hit. Hundreds of homes in Modřany and Zbraslav in the south
of the city were also evacuated while some people in Lahovice and Velká
were rescued by helicopter.
Parts of all three city metro lines (including part of line A which runs through the city’s historic centre) have been closed and will remain so over the coming days. The transit authority has provided alternative transport in the form of busses and special trams. Sources reported commuters relied heavily on those on Monday.
The village of Vestec in the area of Nymburk east of Prague has been one of the worst-hit by flood waters: the evacuation of all 300-or-so-inhabitants began on Sunday and is continuing. Almost every building in the village has been swamped by water from the Mrlina and there is danger of additional flood water breaking through a nearby levee, which the mayor indicated would be catastrophic for the village. Vestec was hit by 50-year floods back in 2003; then, family wells were fouled by floodwater which required drinking water to be shipped in in cisterns for several years, he said.
Police, fire fighters and the operator of 25-tonne heavy machinery monitored the situation at Prague’s Charles Bridge throughout Monday. The digger, which has an extended 17-metre-long arm, been operating to remove branches and other debris from accumulating, to prevent damage to the 14th century bridge. The heavy machinery operator said he had used the arm to change the direction of some debris. Larger pieces, including bits from garden sheds, had had to be moved. Water on the Vltava on Monday morning flowed at a rate of 3,000 cubic metres per second, compared to the almost 5,000 cubic metres per second in the devastating floods of 2002.
The Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany – all hit by extensive flooding in recent days – will be able to receive help by way of the EU Solidarity Fund. European Commission spokeswoman Shirin Wheeler quoted European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn on Monday as saying the EU was ready to help. The Solidarity Fund was created in 2002 in response to devastating floods in Central Europe, including the Czech Republic, that year. The EC spokeswoman said that countries hit by the most recent floods would have 10 weeks to assess the extent of the damage and to apply.
The Constitutional Court has rejected a proposal calling for the legislation on church property restitution to be repealed. The proposal was submitted by 18 senators from the Social Democratic, Communist and Public Affairs parties, who claim the law, which came into effect earlier this year, goes against the separation of church and state. The decision means that the government over time will pay out approximately 134 billion crowns in property and financial compensation to religious institutions, as restitution for property taken away from them by the state under communism.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has warned that the water flow along the Vltava cascade – a series of dams and reservoirs on the Vltava River will need to be increased. On Monday evening the rate of flow of water on the Vltava measured 2900 cubic metres per second and could be go as high as 3300 by Tuesday afternoon. The prime minister stressed the need for increasing flow, saying the reservoir at Orlik, for example, was almost at full capacity. On Monday, Mr Nečas visited areas already affected by flooding; he said the system of waterworks on the Vltava granted municipalities time to prepare for flood waters and to react in advance. According to the Czech news agency, Prague currently has anti-flood barriers capable of withstanding a rate of 3700 cubic metres per second; over the course of the evening it will be increased to 4000, readying the city for 100-year floods. Devastating floods in 2002 saw a rate of more than 5000 cubic metres per second.
Officials warn that Prague has not yet seen the worst of it: water levels on the Vltava River are now expected to peak at 7 am Tuesday – roughly 24 hours later a previous estimate. A swelling of the Berounka, a tributary, is expected to peak somewhat earlier. Members of the country’s central crisis management team, which includes the interior minister, said that the further evacuation of Prague residents from their homes could not be ruled out. Inhabitants of other areas, including Kralupy nad Vltavou, north of Prague, and in Central Bohemia may also have to be evacuated from their homes. Looking ahead, the crisis management team revealed that 350 police officers are ready to help in the clean-up effort which will begin once flood waters subside.
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