A bout of freezing cold weather in the Czech Republic has led to delays and cancelations on the country’s railways: one of the routes affected on Saturday was between the capital and the west Bohemian town of Plzeň. The Arctic weather, which saw temperatures plummet as low as -26 degrees Celsius overnight, froze switches on the track and caused other damage delaying transport and travel. Other routes suffered similar complications, a railways spokesman said; alternative transport is being provided in areas.
Regarding delays, the first train for Nuremburg only left at 10 on Saturday morning after more than four hours wait. The Pendolino from Bohumín to Prague suffered a two-hour delay, and the EC from Prague to Vienna left 50 minutes late. Freezing cold conditions – which followed heavy snow fall earlier in the week – are expected to last throughout most of the weekend; meanwhile, officials have asked motorists to exercise extra caution on the road and avoid travel if possible.
In related news, parts of Moravia saw additional snow on Friday evening, as much as 15 centimetres in places. Snow removal crews worked under tough conditions to improve the situation in regions, including those hardest hit by fresh snow, Zlín and Moravia-Silesia. Motorists reported more than one hour-long delays in traffic. Major roads are open and drivable but covered in slush in places due to highway salt and de-icing materials.
The extreme cold, in all likelihood, took the life a homeless man early on Saturday morning: he was found dead near a supermarket in Prague 8. The man was around 50 years of age. An autopsy will be needed to determine the exact cause of death. A day earlier in Prague a man of around 42 died at a metro entrance in Zličín. Alcohol consumption, together with the freezing conditions, were the key factors.
The former head of the Christian Democratic Party and ex-foreign minister Cyril Svoboda will reportedly not continue in a post he held for 16 years: a member of the European Commission for Democracy through Law, the Czech newspaper Právo reported. According to the daily, Mr Svoboda’s mandate ended in October and the current foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, is favouring a new candidate: 45-year-old Veronika Bílková of the Prague Institute of International Relations. Mr Svoboda told the newspaper he was not surprised by the development, suggesting he did not have strong support from the current leadership. He stressed that the EC post was not a paid position, although there were travel-related expenses around four times a year.
Almost half of Czech hospitals – 80 out of 164 that provided information – finished in the red in the first half of 2010, statisticians reported. Out of the 80, more than half saw losses greater than 5 million crowns. But all hospitals together finished with a positive result of 148 million crowns. Expenses for Czech hospitals totaled 62.4 billion crowns, returns 62.5. Next year, hospitals will get around two percent less in financing than in 2010, which over the year will a difference of around two billion crowns. Individual facilities will have to make up the difference from internal funds, meaning they will not be in a position to raise salaries.
Social Democrat delegates in the region of Pardubice have suggested they will prefer Bohuslav Sobotka to be the party’s next leader, over rival Michal Hašek. At the regional conference on Saturday, 71 out of 103 local delegates gave the acting leadetheir vote. All the same, Mr Hašek received 54 – meaning some delegates voted for both men. The Social Democratic Party will officially elect its next leader at its party congress in March 2011, in Brno.
A 73-year-old Czech man, convicted of a number of crimes before 1978 but with a clean record since, was arrested in the capital on Friday for holding up a Prague bank. Právo reported that the suspect was apprehended less than 20 minutes after demanding money from a teller and leaving the premises. Witnesses kept an eye on the suspect and called the police. During the bank job, the would-be robber, who was carrying a firearm, fired one shot in the air to cow bystanders; no one was hurt in the incident. Police suspect the man may have hit the same bank a year ago; if found guilty, he could face up to ten years in prison.
Meteorologists on Saturday issued a warning over smog levels in Central Bohemia, saying the concentration of airborne dust particles had exceeded the limit of 110 micrograms per cubic metre. Recorded was around 114. Specialists at the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute could issue an order later on Saturday requiring industries in the area to cut-back on production until the quality of the air improves. Individuals with a history of heart or other health problems, the elderly and children who go outside are cautioned to avoid physical exertion.
Czech hockey forward Martin Havlát, who plays for the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, earned one assist and scored the tying goal against Calgary on Friday to help his team head to overtime and later to penalties. However, the Wild lost in the shootout. The final score was 3:2. Havlát has been on a productive streak, earning 16 points in 11 games.
Freezing cold conditions are expected to continue into Saturday evening. Sunday should see cloudiness and a chance of snowfall or mixed snow and rain showers in places. Daytime temperatures will range between -9 and -2 degrees Celsius.