The U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic has began a tour of flood-affected regions to assess the degree of damage from last week's devastating floods. Mr Craig Stapleton visited the town of Plzen on Tuesday, which bears historic ties with the United States having been liberated by U.S. troops in WWII. He will also be travelling to southern and north Bohemia in the next few days. Speaking to journalists, he promised to get help not only from the U.S. government, but also from firms, foundations, unions, and U.S. citizens. Despite the extensive flood damage that the Czech Republic has suffered, Mr Stapleton was confident in Prague's ability to host the NATO summit in November. In light of the summit, he added, U.S. aid will have to be provided fairly quickly. Whilst the immediate focus is to be on disinfectants, medicine and other material, there will also be other forms of aid such as affordable loans from U.S. banks or insurance companies, and an effective way to reconstruct infrastructure and private property.
Czech Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said on Tuesday that the Czech Republic will not be sending any more soldiers to Afghanistan for the time being. The reason is the country's lack of finances as much of its budget will have to be used for the rebuilding of the flood-damaged country. Although all Czech soldiers on missions abroad will not be called back, no new units will be sent out. There are currently two hundred medical unit soldiers on a mission in a field hospital in the Afghan capital Kabul. The Czech Republic has also sent a chemical unit to Kuwait to join the international fight against terrorism. The financial strain, however, has been immense forcing the government to dig deep into its budget and acquire a debt of several million Czech crowns.
Czech hygienists have warned of another threat of infectious diseases as mosquitoes multiply in flood-affected parts of Moravia. Most fears are directed to a lake covering 1,500 hectares of land that has formed in a field between the villages of Hevlin and Novosedly. According to the South Moravian Hygiene Office, dead animals are already floating in the water as the weather gets warmer, creating an ideal breeding environment for insects. With the water levels failing to fall, the warm weather has resulted in decomposition. Residents in the area have been advised to stock up on insect repellent and insert mosquito nets. Despite the hot weather, they are also advised to wear clothing that covers the entire body. After the floods in 1997, residents in the crisis area were plagued by ten mosquito bites a minute.
The Czech Republic is recording a gradual fall of water levels
throughout the country after this week's catastrophic floods. In Prague,
on Sunday morning, levels on the Vltava river were down by five metres
from Wednesday's high. Experts, however, expect a month to pass before
levels get back to normal. Rescue teams in the flood-hit areas have been
replaced by thousands of clean-up workers and heavy machinery to
remove tonnes of mud and debris. The country's hygiene officers have
also warned of a possible outbreak of epidemics and urged those taking
part in rescue work to respect health precautions and get
vaccinated against diseases.
In the past week 220,000 people were evacuated from their homes. According to figures released by the interior ministry, 18,300 people took part in rescue work, out of which 3,500 were professional fire fighters, 7,800 volunteer fire fighters, and 7,000 police. Some 2,500 soldiers patrolled the evacuated areas for fear of looting. Fourteen people are believed to have lost their lives.
Besides a large number of international organisations, several countries
have expressed solidarity with the Czech Republic, offering machinery,
monetary aid and man power. On Saturday, Italy sent water pumps and drying
equipment, over 70 fire fighters from the German city of Frankfurt and
82 fire fighters from southern Poland set off to help the flood affected
areas, and useful machinery is on its way
from Great Britain and Sweden. The Russian embassy as well
as the Israeli Foreign Minister, Simon Peres, also offered their country's
help to the flood-hit areas.
Furthermore, in a telephone conversation on Saturday, the U.S. President, George Bush, told his Czech counterpart Vaclav Havel that the USA would help the Czech Republic recover from the devastating floods with every possible means. According to the U.S. embassy in Prague, some 500,000 U.S. dollars have already been provided for immediate aid. The American embassy also offered to take over care and cleaning of Kampa island, one of the hardest hit parts of Prague as well as collect donations from U.S. firms and U.S. citizens living in the Czech Republic to be used for the reconstruction of Kampa park. According to the CTK news agency, the United States also plans to offer engineer equipment to those areas affected by the floods that it liberated in World War Two. This would involve the West Bohemian town of Plzen and the South Bohemian town of Pisek. A diplomatic source in Washington told the news agency that a proposal has already been submitted to the Czech side. Details are expected to be discussed during a meeting between U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Craig Stapleton, and the Mayor of Plzen on Tuesday.
Another house in the Prague 8 district of Karlin collapsed at about one o'clock after midnight. The interior ministry believes that no lives were lost as no bodies were found whilst rescue workers searched through the rubble. The building collapsed despite experts claiming it was safe. The police have now closed off much of the area to allow for further testing of building structures. The 25,000 evacuated people living in the district, will now have to wait longer before being allowed to return to their homes. On Saturday night, many had a brief chance to collect a few items before the area was cordoned off again. Saturday night's collapse was the third in the past three days. The first building collapsed on Thursday, the second on Friday.
The UNESCO Secretary General, Koichiro Matsuura, called on to the international community on Saturday to mobilise its forces to save world heritage sites from damage by extensive floods in Central Europe. Mr Matsuura said that UNESCO and its World Heritage Centre needed to provide all the technical and financial assistance available to help restore the flood damaged cultural heritage. He also expressed deep regret over the damaged centre of the Czech capital Prague, its old Jewish quarter, and the south Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov. Both Prague and Cesky Krumlov were entered in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites in 1992. Mr Matsuura furthermore wrote a letter to President Vaclav Havel to support his call for international aid to the Czech Republic.
Although the record water levels across the Czech Republic retreated further on Saturday, thousands of evacuated residents were unable to return to their homes as many areas remained without gas and electricity. Despite growing frustration, officials urged the evacuated citizens to be patient as authorities need more time to go building to building to ensure structures are safe. The floods forced some 70,000 Prague residents from their homes, and more than 130,000 were evacuated in the rest of the country.
Besides the large number of international organisations, several countries have also expressed solidarity with the Czech Republic, offering machinery and help from rescue workers. On Saturday, Italy sent water pumps and drying equipment and over 70 fire fighters from the German city of Frankfurt and some 40 fire fighters from southern Poland set off to help the flood affected areas. The countries have promised further help if needed. According to the CTK news agency, the United States intends to offer engineer equipment to those areas affected by the floods that it liberated in World War Two. This would involve the West Bohemian town of Plzen and the South Bohemian town of Pisek. A diplomatic source in Washington told the news agency that a proposal has already been submitted to the Czech side. Details are expected to be discussed during a meeting between U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Craig Stapleton, and the Mayor of Plzen on Tuesday.
The Czech Republic is recording a gradual fall of water levels throughout the country and now faces the task of cleaning up after this week's catastrophic floods. In Prague, water levels on Saturday morning were down by more than four metres from Wednesday's high. Experts, however, expect a month to pass before levels get back to normal. Rescue teams have been replaced by thousands of clean-up workers and heavy machinery to remove tonnes of mud and debris. In the north of the country where the Vltava and Elbe rivers meet before heading into southern Germany, water levels also receded from nearly 12 metres. Hundreds of homes lay in ruins with dozens more on the verge of collapse.
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