The Czech Foreign Minister, Cyril Svoboda, has thanked the people of Slovakia for the help they gave the Czech Republic during the recent floods, saying Slovakia was one of the first countries to offer assistance. Mr Svoboda was speaking after talks in Bratislava on Wednesday with senior Slovak politicians, including President Rudolf Schuster and Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda. Czechoslovakia split in two in January 1993.
A message from the Czech President, Vaclav Havel, was read out at the closing ceremony at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in the South African city of Johannesburg on Wednesday. Mr Havel's message stressed global responsibility and called for a restructuralisation of values as well as the restructuralisation of the economy. It was read out by Deputy Prime Minister Petr Mares, the head of the Czech delegation at the summit.
The director of Prague Zoo, Petr Fejk, has said he hopes to reopen the upper part of the zoo to the public this coming weekend. Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Fejk said the lower part of the zoo, which was completely underwater during the recent floods, would be opened in stages, but not before next year. Around a dozen large mammals and 80 exotic birds were lost during the floods.
The Czech Prime Minister, Vladimir Spidla, and his Polish counterpart, Leszek Miller, have said referendums in both countries on accession to the European Union should be coordinated. The two men were speaking in Warsaw on Wednesday, on what was Mr Spidla's first official trip abroad since winning elections in June. They stressed that no concrete dates for such referendums had been agreed on. At a recent meeting of the presidents of the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary the idea of 'cascading referendums' was put forward; meaning that votes on joining the EU should be first held in countries where support for such a move is higher, starting with Hungary. Of the four country's, support for EU accession is lowest in the Czech Republic, with around half the electorate in favour.
School started on Monday for around 1.5 million Czech school pupils. However, several dozen flood-damaged schools throughout the country remain closed, and many children will not return to their classrooms until mid-September or the beginning of October. The Education Ministry is organising recreational trips in the countryside for children from flood-hit areas.
President Vaclav Havel and his wife Dagmar have visited several villages affected by the recent floods, to see the damage for themselves and offer support. The presidential couple visited villages in the Strakonice, Klatovy and Prague-West areas, bringing with them cleaning equipment, gloves and tools to help the clean-up operation. Mr Havel said the best thing he and members of his staff could offer flood victims was psychological and moral support.
The Czech Embassy in London says people in Britain have donated almost 160,000 pounds, or more than eight million crowns, to a special fund for Czech flood victims. An embassy spokeswoman said there was great interest among the British public in the floods. The British government has donated around 100,000 pounds and special drying equipment, while Prince Charles has also contributed money from his own foundations.
Police said the death toll from the floods rose to seventeen on Saturday, after a man pumping water from his cellar fell unconscious and drowned. A police spokesman said the man was pumping floodwater from his cottage in the southern town of Trebon when he was overcome with petrol fumes and lost consciousness. Around ten people were swept to their deaths by swollen rivers during the floods, the remainder died from heart attacks or accidents during rescue work.
The former World War II concentration camp at Terezin near Litomerice in Central Bohemia will reopen for visitors on Monday. The site of the memorial as well as the town of Terezin itself were badly hit during the recent flood and the memorial alone suffered damage estimated at 60,000,000 crowns (2,000,000 US dollars). As of Monday, visitors will be able to see the Jewish cemetery and crematorium, the Small Fortress, the Ghetto Museum and other monuments. Between 1940 and 1945, more than 200,000 people were deported to the camp, known in German as Theresienstadt. Some 32,000 people died at Terezin, while 100,000 inmates were later killed at other concentration camps. In 1947 the government of Czechoslovakia decided to preserve the site and turn in into a memorial.
Clean-up work has started at the Spolana chemical plant north of Prague which was severely affected by the recent flood. On Saturday morning specialists at the plant finished removing the rest of dangerous chlorine gas stored in partially submerged tanks and on Sunday the Spolana staff started cleaning up the site and preparing the plant for normal operation expected to start at the end of October. The flooding at Spolana caused leakages of several chemical substances both into the air and water, the most dangerous being the leaks of chlorine. Last week, the government intervened after a second leak of chlorine into the air, and the factory's director was sacked.