Five people earlier on Monday were confirmed to have lost their lives in
connection with floods that have wreaked havoc across Bohemia. Pavla
Kopecká, the spokeswoman for the police presidium in Prague, told the
Czech news agency that a 69-year-old man in the village of Měčín
in the Klatovy area had drowned after falling into a runoff sluice. At the
weekend, a woman and a man in Třebenice outside Prague were the first
victims when their cottage collapsed in a flood-related mudslide. An
82-year-old man died in the Benešov area also lost his life, as did a
Late on Monday, a sixth person, an electrician, was killed while trying to disconnect a transformer that had been flooded.
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.
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.
The country’s chief hygiene officer, Vladimír Valenta, has warned people in regions hit by flooding not to drink tap water. There are 51 cases where water supply has been affected and other parts of the network are threatened. The warning is most directed at the regions of Central Bohemia, Plzeň and South Bohemia. Drinking water will be provided by mobile cisterns, the chief hygiene officer said. Water supplies in the Czech capital are not at threat.
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 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.
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.
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.
Damage to the lower part of Prague Zoo in Troja are estimated at around 160 million crowns, its head Miroslav Bobek has revealed, stressing that the number was a first estimate. After suffering devastation in 2002, the zoo introduced a 20-metre high flood wall but it wasn’t enough to stop flood waters a little over a decade later. Animals in the lower level of the zoo, however, were all relocated in advance. Mr Bobek warned that if the Vltava continued to swell further animals would have to be evacuated from their pavilions, namely the sea lions but possibly also the zoo’s gorillas. In 2002, a sea lion was swept from his enclosure in the zoo after Prague was hit by devastating floods. Named Gaston, the animal swam 300 kilometres and was caught only in neighbouring Germany, where he succumbed to exhaustion and stress.
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.