Police are investigating the cause of Saturday's gas explosion in a Prague restaurant which killed two people and injured four others. The blast shook the three story apartment block early on Saturday morning, demolishing the ground floor where several restaurant employees were working and shattering windows in the upper storeys. Fifteen residents were evacuated, while emergency crews used sniffer dogs to find people trapped in the debris. Investigators say it is likely that a gas pipeline may accidentally have been damaged during work in the building.
Olympic men's aerials champion Ales Valenta appears to have shrugged off a knee injury and will defend his title after he was named on the start list for Monday's qualification round. Valenta, a surprise winner in 2002 when he landed the difficult quintuple-twist triple backflip, injured his knee in training on Tuesday and said he did not know if he would be fit to compete. Qualification for the men's freestyle skiing aerials takes place on Monday with the finals on Thursday.
The Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and Health Minister David Rath have promised to amend a controversial directive on health care payments, according to which doctors would receive more money for treatment as of April 1st. The health minister said this was made possible by the improving financial situation of the largest state owned health insurance company VZP. The insurer's debt is said to have dropped to 7 billion crowns, down from 14 billion in the previous year. Despite the announcement, doctors are going ahead with preparations for a massive demonstration against the health minister's radical reforms next Friday. They claim that the demonstration could only be averted by the health minister's resignation or dismissal. Pharmacists and patients are expected to support the protest action.
The Czech hockey team took a beating at the hands of the Fins at the Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament on Saturday. The 4:2 defeat was the second loss in a row for the Czechs, considered a gold medal contender coming into the games. Even worse top winger Jaromir Jagr was injured when he was slammed into the boards by Jarkko Ruutu in the second period. The Czech team is already depleted by the loss of goalie Domink Hasek and forward Patrik Elias to injuries. The Czechs face Italy in a decisive match on Sunday night.
A Dutch tourist was injured by a heavy pile of snow which slid off a rooftop in the town of Jachymov on Saturday morning. The 40 year old tourist allegedly ignored warnings and went out to see what was happening when the first pile of snow came down from the roof of a nearby building. A much heavier load hit him several minutes later, causing multiple fractures, concussion and shock. He is being treated at a hospital in nearby Karlovy Vary.
The leadership of the ruling Social Democratic party met on Saturday to try to rally support for the bill on same sex partnerships which the President's veto has sent back to the lower house. A new vote on the bill is to take place in March and its definitive approval would require a majority of 101 votes. The Social Democratic party has recommended that its deputies support the bill and it will seek stronger backing for it across the political spectrum. The bill has evoked plenty of controversy over the past seven years and the most support it ever received in the lower house was 86 votes last December. Gay rights activists fear that the President's veto could send the bill back to square one. Its approval on the other hand would make the Czech Republic the first post communist state to legalize gay marriages.
The Plzen regional court has sent Kosovo Albanian Faton Gasi to twelve years in prison for extensive drug trafficking. The court found him guilty of smuggling some 250 kilograms of heroin from the Czech Republic to Italy in 1998 and 1999. Two other men were heavily involved in the trafficking but one of them is dead and the other is reported missing. Gasi, who has lived in the Czech Republic since 1991, was earlier suspected of the murder of two Turkish businessmen, but the court cleared him of all charges on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
The Czech Food Inspection Office says it has confiscated 19 tons of Chinese shelled nuts imported from the Netherlands because they were found to contain high levels of potentially cancer-causing substances, so called aflatoxins. Aflatoxins often occur in rotting food. The Food Inspection Office said that laboratory tests revealed that the level of these substances in the consignment of Chinese nuts far exceeded EU-established limits.
A gas explosion in a Prague restaurant has left four people injured, two of them seriously. The explosion happened at eight thirty am local time on Saturday morning when several employees were already working on the premises. Fifteen people had to be evacuated from the building, which houses apartments on its upper floors. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
The right-of-centre Freedom Union has announced that it will run solely on its own in national elections later this year, rather than forming a pre-election bloc with other small centre-right parties. There was speculation the party could run on a common platform with non-parliamentary parties including the liberal European Democrats or the Civic Democratic Alliance. In the end, the Freedom Union opted to run separately, its representatives saying they are aiming to put together a candidate list by March. The Freedom Union is acknowledged as being in a difficult position ahead of the elections, with a number of polls suggesting voters support currently falls well below the 5 percent threshold needed to get into Parliament.
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