Following days of flooding, the minister of agriculture, Petr Bendl, ordered a reduction in the flow of water from a dam system in southern Bohemia on Tuesday. A ministry official said if the move were not taken, waters would breach defences in Ústí nad Labem and inundate much of the North Bohemian city. Officials say the River Labe is likely to culminate in Ústí nad Labem on Wednesday evening at a height of up to 11.5 metres, less than half a metre lower than the level seen during catastrophic floods in 2002. Around 6,000 people have been evacuated in the area and bridges and the local train station have been closed.
A meeting of the Prague City Council at which a new mayor was due to be elected has been cancelled in view of the flood situation, acting mayor Hudeček said on Tuesday. A vote had also been due to take place on Thursday on the formation of a new council. The elections are now likely to be held on June 20. Mr. Hudeček’s TOP 09 recently ousted Civic Democrat mayor Bohuslav Svoboda when a coalition of the two parties fell apart. A third significant grouping, the Social Democrats, have issued coalition demands that TOP 09 say are unacceptable.
The Oscar-winning filmmaker Michel Gondry will personally present his latest picture Mood Indigo at the opening of the 48th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival on the last weekend of June, organisers said on Tuesday. Among the films in the main competition will be Czech director Jan Hřebejk’s latest movie Líbánky (Honeymoon), while Alice Nellis’s Revival and a restored version of Vojtěch Jasný’s All My Compatriots are also on the programme.
The acting mayor of Prague, Tomáš Hudeček, says the flood situation in the city has stabilised. Speaking after a meeting of the capital’s crisis committee on Tuesday, Mr. Hudeček said streams flowing into the River Vltava had receded. Officials said water levels had culminated in Prague at around 6 AM. In some parts of the city cleanup operations and the calculation of damages have begun. However, much of its underground rail network remains closed and the metro may not reopen fully until the end of the week.
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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