Following an emergency government session on Tuesday Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla appealed on the public to cooperate with the authorities and not hamper rescue efforts. He said the government was releasing 380 million crowns for immediate expenditures and that more aid money would be made available in due time. The European Commission is also said to be considering ways of helping the Czech Republic. President Havel is cutting short his holiday in Portugal and will return to Prague on Wednesday.
A state of emergency is in force in the Czech Republic where the Czech capital Prague and other parts of the country have been hit by the worst floods in over a century. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes. In Prague the River Vltava broke its banks in the early afternoon spilling over into parts of the Old Town and flooding some residential areas on the riverside . The authorities ordered the evacuation of 50 thousand people from their homes before noon on Tuesday but many people were reluctant to move for fear of looting. Several cases of looting have already been reported. Electricity and phone lines are down in many parts of the Czech capital. Parts of Prague have been closed off, public transport is restricted and soldiers are patrolling the deserted areas in an effort to prevent further looting. Over one thousand soldiers, firefighters and thousands of volunteers are helping to deal with this natural disaster.
Emergency shelters have been set up in many parts of the country and psychologists are helping flood victims to deal with the crisis. It is not yet clear how many people may be left homeless. According to the authorities it may take up to four days for water levels to return to normal. Telephone help lines and counseling centers are working around the clock. The mayor of Prague has advised people not to return to their homes prematurely since parts of the Czech capital are expected to remain without electricity and gas, clean water and food supplies for some time.
The situation is reported to be critical in other parts of the Czech Republic as well. Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes in south Bohemia where the city centres of Ceske Budejovice, Cesky Krumlov , Plzen and Strakonice are under water. Many of the smaller towns and villages in South Bohemia have been flooded or cut off by the flood. At least one evacuated village is reported to have been seriously damaged, with whole houses collapsing. Parts of North Bohemia and Moravia, the eastern part of the Czech Republic, are also effected, though to a lesser extent. Ten people are known to have been have been killed in the flood, and at least two people are reported missing at the present time.
Several towns have been cut off and many villages flooded as new rain continued to swell rivers in south-central Bohemia. Whilst firemen and soldiers have already evacuated a number of towns and villages, the regional governor in central-Bohemia called for people living around the Berounka and Vltava rivers to prepare for further evacuation. People have also been told to leave parts of the UNESCO-protected town of Cesky Krumlov - the second most popular tourist destination after the capital city, Prague. Jan Bauer, the mayor of the southern town of Prachatice, told Czech Radio that the flooding had left trains and buses not running because bridges have fallen and roads are damaged. Whilst floods sweeping across Europe have killed more than 60 people in the last week, the Czech Republic has reported four casualties so far. Another three people - including two voluntary firemen - died of heart attacks during rescue work.
Jiri Kolar, one of the Czech Republic's most famous and influential artists is dead. After a series of illnesses that left him weak and exhausted, he died in his apartment in Prague on Sunday at the age of 88. Mr Kolar is mainly known for his poetry and unique collages. After the rise of Communism in 1948, he went through a decades-long struggle to be allowed to publish and exhibit. His refusal to compromise resulted in a nine month prison sentence in 1950, which led him to sign the Charter 77 human rights declaration along with other opposition figures such as the current Czech President Vaclav Havel. In 1980, Mr Kolar emigrated to France, where he stayed until the collapse of Communist rule in 1989. Mr Kolar had several exhibitions in western Europe and the United States, including a 1981 show in New York's Guggenheim Museum.
Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla called a state of emergency in five regions in Bohemia on Monday. In a public address on Czech Radio, Mr Spidla stated that the damage caused by heavy floods in Prague, Central Bohemia, South Bohemia, and the Pilsen and Carlsbad districts was extensive enough to threaten the property, health, and lives of citizens. The state of emergency has been called to run from 1800 hrs on Monday to midnight on August 22nd, meaning that anyone other than rescue workers is prohibited to enter restricted and evacuated zones and evacuated citizens are compelled to report their temporary places of residence to the authorities.
Meanwhile in Prague, meteorologists expect the flooding in the city lying downstream on the Vltava river to be the worst since 1890. Whilst several low-lying streets and islands have already been flooded, the Prague crisis committee warns that a new wave could lead to the Vltava river spilling into more of the city overnight. The new wave threatens to be much bigger, possibly bringing in twice as much water as the damaging wave that reached the city on Friday. Several districts of Prague are without electricity and some 70 patients had to be evacuated from the Na Frantisku hospital on the Vltava embankment and transported to four other hospitals on Monday afternoon. With more rain forecast in the next few days, the crisis committee fears further flooding due to the soil's inability to hold any more water and the failure of dams containing the flow.
The lawyer for the former Foreign Ministry official accused of trying to kill an investigative journalist has said his client is suicidal and wants to starve himself to death in prison. The lawyer said Karel Srba, former Foreign Ministry General Secretary, had not accepted food or liquids since Friday, although prison authorities say Mr Srba ended his hunger strike on Sunday afternoon. Mr Srba is being held in isolation at the Bory prison in Plzen. He was arrested several weeks ago and has been charged with attempted murder, fraud and corruption.
A restaurant-owner in the North Moravian city of Ostrava stood trial at the Regional court on Friday, after a Roma couple sued him for not serving them in his restaurant because of the colour of their skin. The man defended himself by saying his Club Vegas was a private one which only its members are allowed to enter. Despite the fact that there was reportedly a notice on the door announcing this, a witness told the court he was not a member and had always been served. Markus Pape from the European Centre for Roma Rights has described the incident as disguised racism.
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