The bird flu virus has been confirmed in a fifth dead swan that was found in the south Bohemian region of Ceske Budejovice. The news was released by Josef Duben, spokesman for the State Veterinary Administration. A sample will be sent for testing to the European Union's Reference Laboratory in Weybridge, Britain, to confirm whether or not the flu is the deadly H5N1 strain - dangerous for human beings. Tests on one dead swan - the first case in the Czech Republic, found in Hluboka nad Vltavou, south Bohemia - confirmed the presence of the pathogenic virus. Other samples from dead swans confirmed H5.
Dozens of municipalities around the Czech Republic have remained on
highest alert as rain and melting snow have continued to dangerously swell
rivers throughout parts of the country. At around midnight on Friday
2,000 people were ordered to evacuate parts of the town of Olomouc in
Moravia at risk from flooding from the Morava River, now risen to four
times its normal level. Some inhabitants reportedly refused, but will be
forced out if need be, a city spokesman has said. Nearby Litovel could
also be affected.
Throughout the country soldiers and emergency crews have been busy reinforcing river banks and securing flood defences. Other areas hit by flooding include southern Moravia's Znojmo region on the Dyje River, and the north Bohemian city of Usti nad Labem. In the regions more than 10,000 people have already been evacuated and further evacuations are likely.
A central crisis committee meeting has also been called - and the Cabinet will meet on Sunday to discuss additional steps.
Jan Veleba - the president of that Czech Agrarian Chamber - has warned that farmers in the Visegrad Four, that is the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, are growing increasingly dependent on EU subsidies as sales revenues have decreased. Mr Veleba made the announcement after a Visegrad meeting on Saturday. He pointed out that farmers want to turn around the decline in production and push for a change in rules in the use of agricultural products in the energy industry. There, they would like to see an increase of revenues from bioethanol, biooil and biogas. According to Mr Veleba, the chamber is planning on holding a summit of non-government agrarian organisations from new EU countries in the fall. Visegrad Four representatives, meanwhile, are to meet again in July.
In NHL hockey on Friday Czechs were instrumental in the Columbus Bluejackets' win over the St Louis Blues. Jaroslav Balastik scored while David Vyborny and Jan Hrdina both notched up assists. The Bluejackets are currently 13th in the Western Conference, well out of play-off contention, as are the Blues in 15th.
A delegation of state prosecutors, returning from the Bahamas on Saturday, maintains that chances have increased that former financier Viktor Kozeny could face trial in Prague. The businessman - who has been remanded in custody in a Bahamian cell since October 5th last year, is also wanted by authorities in the US, for alleged corruption and money laundering in oil privatisation deals in Azerbaijan. The Czech Republic would like to see Mr Kozeny face trail here for the alleged defrauding of investors in the mid 1990s.
In other parts of Bohemia, the situation near Melnik, just 30 kilometres
remains critical, with the Elbe continuing to rise. Parts of the town
are now flanked by water that has broken the banks.
But, in the Czech capital, Prague, the situation remains more optimistic, although the flood commission will meet on Saturday to decide further steps: namely whether or not to call the highest alert, based on increasing water levels. Under the so-called 3rd degree, a number of the city's metro stations would be closed off. Parts of the Prague metro were badly damaged in floods in 2002, taking roughly a year to repair.
The head of the Morava River basin water management company, Miroslav Konecny, has been sacked. Mr Konecny was dismissed by Agriculture Minister Jan Mladek on Friday after several municipalities affected by the floods complained that they were left in the dark about rising water levels. Konecny will be replaced on Saturday by copany vice president for finances Pavel Mylbachr.
The EC Vice-President and Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, Guenter Verheugen, is on a one-day visit to Prague. The former EU commissioner for enlargement is due to hold talks with politicians and entrepreneurs. At a meeting with Czech Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Jiri Havel, the liberalisation of the energy market dominated the talks. Mr Verheugen is also due to visit the Senate, participate in a discussion on economic growth and employment in the European Union, and meet Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. This is Mr Verheugen's first official visit to Prague since EU expansion in 2004.
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