The massive fire that broke out at Unipetrol’s Záluží chemichal complex near Litvinov in northern Bohemia has been brought under control. Fire crews from the whole of the Ústí region were called to the blaze which followed an explosion. Over 1000 people living in the vicinity of the plant were evacuated, others were cautioned to stay indoors and keep their windows closed. Four firemen were treated as they fought the blaze and one person was injured. A spokesman for Unipetrol said no toxic substances were released into the air. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
The first of a group of some 70 Syrian refugees who are expected to receive medical treatment in the Czech Republic should arrive in mid-October, according to Interior Ministry sources. The Czech government agreed earlier this year to take in 15 Syrian families, altogether 70 Christian refugees, from camps in Jordan – in order to give their children medical care which cannot be administered inside the refugee camps. At the end of the year the Czech authorities should also start resettling the first batch of altogether 400 Syrian refugees which the country has agreed to take in from outside the EU. Another 1,100 refugees will come from EU member states such as Greece and Italy which are bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis.
The water-management authorities are holding a crisis meeting on the ongoing drought which is now proving a serious threat to the ecosystem. The worst situation is in areas where there are no dams. The situation is reported to be near critical in the Zlín region in Moravia which has the lowest water reserves in Moravia. Smaller rivers and streams have been dropping to critical levels and the water management of the Elbe says that the flow of the river is so low that the so called “hunger-stone” is visible for the first time in 33 years. Although some rain has been forecast in the coming days experts say it would need three weeks of persistent rain to resolve the problem.
Environment Minister Richard Brabec is to get an additional 250 million crowns for the environment sector in 2016 for landscape management and measures to help fight drought, the ctk news agency reports. The minister requested the extra funds in connection with the problems brought about by the extreme weather conditions this summer. Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, who approved the request in full, said that under the present circumstances, he could not guarantee meeting the set 70 billion crown deficit target for next year. Earlier in the day Babiš agreed to an extra 3.0 billion crowns for the 2016 budget of the Ministry of Interior for expenses connected to the migrant crisis.
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek will not be undertaking a trip to Lebanon for the time being in connection with the case of the five Czechs who went missing in the country in mid-July. According to a statement issued by the Czech Foreign Ministry shortly after the return of a Czech delegation to Lebanon headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek, there is not enough information on the case at present to merit a visit by the foreign minister. Both sides will remain in close contact. The five Czechs disappeared in the Bekaa Valley, near the border with Syria, on July 18th and the Lebanese interior minister was quoted in the local media as saying that the case had a criminal background and was allegedly linked to drug and arms smuggling.
Ceremonies paying tribute to the 2,500 Czechoslovak pilots who flew with the RAF during WWII took place in Prague on Thursday. People gathered at the Memorial to Czechoslovak Airmen in Prague’s Dejvice district and at the Winged Lion Memorial at Klárov Park, a gift from Prague's British expatriate community, to lay flowers and pay their respects 70 years after the country’s heroes returned to their homeland in August of 1945. Five hundred of them never returned, the rest were given a heroes’ welcome on Old Town Square, but the nation’s gratitude was short-lived. When the communists came to power in 1948 they were portrayed as enemies of the state, jailed and persecuted.
Cardinal Dominik Duka has grandiose plans for the transformation of the town of Stará Boleslav into what the Dnes newspaper described on Thursday as a ‘Czech Vatikan.’ The cost of the projects, which include renovation of two churches and construction of a cultural centre and accommodation facilities for pilgrims and visitors and a brewery and restaurant, are estimated at between 500 million and one billion crowns. A large part of the funds could come from the European Union, regional authorities, and towns. Stará Boleslav is the site where the patron saint of the Czechs, Václav, was murdered in the 10th century by his brother. He was later canonized and the town become the site of an annual pilgrimage.
The indebted Fund for Children at Risk Klokánek which runs a number of children’s homes around the country says it is selling off three of its facilities in order to lower its debt. The homes being placed on the market are in Kroměříž, Dubí and Prague’s Kbely district. Several dozen employees will lose their jobs. In June the ailing fund replaced its management and is asking the government for a financial injection which would enable it to continue functioning.
Eighty-three people were killed on Czech roads in the month of July, the highest number of road deaths in any single month this year, according to police statistics. The head of the traffic police Tomas Lerch said that apart from speeding and drink driving, which are the most frequent causes of accidents on Czech roads, the exceptionally hot weather had contributed significantly to the high death toll. Police have warned that the heat may have a similar effect on drivers as alcohol.
The Czech national football team will not be able to count on the services of Jaroslav Plašil for upcoming European Championship qualification games against Kazakhstan and Latvia in September, the website sport.cz reported Thursday. The midfielder currently playing for Bordeaux has undergone a knee operation it said. The news is a further blow given that team captain and midfielder Tomáš Rosický is also unlikely to play in the games following a similar operation. The Czechs are second in the qualifying group trailing Iceland and only three points ahead of the third placed Netherlands.