A strong explosion rocked a building and surroundings in Divadelní Street in Prague’s Old Town near the Smetana embankment on Monday morning, blowing out windows and sending debris into the streets. Response teams including fire fighters, ambulance crews and police arrived at the scene within minutes. The explosion, thought to have been caused by a gas leak, injured 43 people, at least one of them seriously. A good number were treated in hospital. Many of the injuries were cuts from broken glass. Initially there were fears that individuals could be buried under rubble at the site: but a search found no one, nor is anyone unaccounted for, the city's police chief confirmed. Both the Motol and Vojenská hospitals during the morning set aside scheduled operations to provide additional emergency assistance, if needed.
Students, lecturers and other staff at the FAMU film school and Charles University’s Faculty of Social Sciences, both located in the direct vicinity of Divadlení 5 where Monday’s explosion took place, were among those evacuated from the area. According to the dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Jakub Končelík, between 300 and 400 students were evacuated from the building. The film academy had windows broken in the blast and was also emptied. Staff and visitors were also evacuated from the nearby National Theatre and the Academy of Sciences. The shockwave reached as far as the National Theatre, shattering some glass at the theatre’s Nová scéna (New Stage). Students were among the first to post photos and news of the accident on the social networks.
A two-kilometre stretch of the Prague embankment – from the Smetana
embankment to Palach Square – as well as Narodní třída and smaller
streets in the surrounding area, have been closed to traffic. There were
several reports over the course of Monday morning that gas could be
detected in the air, and several sources said there was a danger of an
explosion taking place, leading to an evacuation of locals and bystanders.
In the afternoon, traffic on the Smetana embankment was allowed to resume but only briefly after more gas was registered by a monitoring vehicle. City Hall has set up a crisis hotline – 800 100 991 – for those needing assistance and is ready to set up a shelter, if necessary. The building in question was not residential, however, housing mostly offices.
My guest today is Marketa Goetz Stankiewicz, a professor emerita at the University of British Columbia. Born in 1927 in the Czech town of Liberec, Marketa left Czechoslovakia following the communist putsch in 1948. She established herself in Canada as a professor of comparative literature, author and essayist, focusing in particular on publishing samizdat literature, and also writing about the work of Czech playwrights such as Pavel Kohout, Josef Topol, Ivan Klíma, and her friend the former president Václav Havel.
The Czech Actors' Association is to present the prestigious annual Thalia Awards at Prague’s National Theatre on Saturday night. The awards are given in recognition of exceptional performances in the fields of drama, opera and ballet as well as for lifetime achievement. Actors from Prague theatre houses have nine nominations, Ostrava has seven nominees, Brno five and Plzen two.
In this new Radio Prague series, notable Prague residents take us to some places in the city to which they have a particular connection. Our first guide is Radim Špaček, who is perhaps best known as the director of the multi-award winning film Pouta, or Walking Too Fast. A former child actor, Radim also makes documentaries and co-organizes Prague’s Bollywood Film Festival. He was actually born on the other side of the country, in Ostrava, but came to the capital as a child.
The Semafor theatre, one of the oldest continuous traditions of modern Czech entertainment, is still putting out new performances after 53 years of existence. The latest concoction of multi-genre comedy theatre is ‘Kam se poděla Valerie?’, or ‘Where Did Valerie Go?’, which has four pre-premieres this week and next, before the real premiere in September.
The Palác Akropolis performance and musical art space in Prague will launch a new play called ČEZKO FOREVER/A True Story about a corruption scandal involving the energy company ČEZ and Škoda Power. The production, which is supported by millionaire Karel Janeček’s Anti-Corruption Endowment Fund, will premiere on Monday. The play was inspired by a secret recording of deals made by a well-known lobbyist.
A theatre in Brno is lobbying to have a street in the Czech Republic’s second city named after the late president and playwright Václav Havel. Members of Divadlo Husa na provázku have sent a proposal to that end to the Town Hall in Brno Central, the news site Novinky.cz reported. The local mayor said he was waiting to hear the opinions of local people on the idea of making a space leading to the theatre, which is currently without a name, Václav Havel St. Mr. Havel, who died in December 2011, had links to the theatre, which put on some of his plays prior to the fall of communism.
For some years after the fall of communism, Czech audiences avoided any kind of theatre that might have been perceived as political. After decades of putting up with politics at every level of life, they had simply had enough. But today political drama is back with a vengeance. With a mixture of masochism and schadenfreude, Czech audiences are relishing new plays and productions that comment on contemporary political life with biting satire. David Vaughan reports.
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“Einstein in Bohemia” – Part II: how alienation in ‘half-barbaric’ Prague led him to a new theory of gravity, eventual love of a free Czechoslovakia
“Einstein in Bohemia” – part 1: how a Prague sojourn sparked his theory of general relativity, journey of self-discovery