The gale force wind that swept across Europe overnight has caused extensive damage and claimed three lives in the Czech Republic. Two people were killed outside of Prague on Thursday when a falling tree crushed their car, while a fire fighter in northern Bohemia was also killed by a falling tree. A fourth person suffered a fatal head injury on Friday when he was hit by a falling tree while trying to clear up property damages.
Police in Pilsen, west Bohemia, have arrested five men, in their early to late twenties, suspected of robbing homes in pensioner apartment blocs. The five are believed to have incurred damages of up to 8 million crowns, the equivalent of around 370,000 US dollars, stealing cash, bank cards, jewellery, and electronic items. Together, the suspects are thought to have hit more than one hundred apartments at facilities providing home care services throughout the country. Several dozen apartments were targeted in the Pilsen area alone. A court is to decide whether the suspects will be remanded in custody pending trial.
The country's recently-named centre-right government made up of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Greens, has won its vote of confidence in the lower house. As expected, all 100 coalition MPs voted in favour, while opposition MPs from amongst the Social Democrats and Communists voted against. The absence of two rebel Social Democrat MPs - Milos Melcak and Michal Pohanka - was crucial in tipping the scales in the government's favour. Earlier this week, in a surprise development, both pledged to tolerate the country's recently-named government in order to help bring an end to seven months of political deadlock. The MPs negotiated a number of concessions in return, including a promise by the prime minister that the cabinet will negotiate all key reforms with the opposition.
On Thursday the strong wind caused blackouts across the country. Czech
Airlines cancelled around 20 flights, mainly to European destinations.
Similarly, other companies that have been tallying up damages from the
gale force wind on Thursday include both the county's energy giant CEZ
and power supplier E.ON. CEZ declared a state of emergency after
twenty-seven reception points - serving more than a million customers -
were left without power.
Other firms badly hit include the Czech forestry authority, which called the effects of Thursday's gale force wind "the worst natural disaster" to ever hit Czech forests. The seriousness of the situation is being assessed by the Agriculture Ministry.
Football netminder Petr Cech is now set to return for his side Chelsea in the English Premiership, following a decision by the English Football Association ruling the player can wear protective headgear in league matches. Last October the 24 year-old Cech suffered a horrific skull fracture in a game against Reading when he collided with Reading player Stephen Hunt. Although the fracture has fully healed and he has been given the "okay" by doctors, Petr Cech will still have to wear a protective helmet in training and competition in the coming months. Speaking to the newspaper The Sun, the keeper said he had gotten used to the gear, a helmet normally used in rugby. Cech told the newspaper that he had no worries about returning to the pitch.
The centre-right coalition cabinet of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek faces
a crucial vote of confidence on Friday which it hopes will end a
seven-month period without a stable government resulting from inconclusive
elections. The governing coalition of the Civic Democrats, the Christian
Democrats and the Green Party has exactly 100 votes in the 200-seat lower
house but two MPs from the Social Democratic Party had agreed to enable
the government to win Friday's vote by not taking part in it.
This is the second chance for Mr Topolanek to form a cabinet after his first minority Civic Democrat government failed a confidence vote in October. The coalition government has set itself an ambitious series of targets, such as to reform public spending and the pension and healthcare systems, but it is unlikely to find majority support for its goals in the chamber.
Czech Television and the internet news server Aktualne.cz have reported that Czech fugitive billionaire Radovan Krejcir was detained in the Seychelles for illegal arms possession but was later released. Radovan Krejcir fled the Czech Republic in 2005 to avoid prosecution in a number of criminal cases, including conspiracy for murder. He has lived with his family in the Seychelles ever since.
The European Court of Justice has ruled the Czech Republic is breaching EU law regarding recognition of qualification of medical doctors and dentists. The court upheld an earlier decision by the European Commission which will now decide on further steps against the Czech Republic. The EU criticises the fact that doctors and dentists from other EU countries working in the Czech Republic for a short period of time need to register with the Czech medical chamber while under EU legislation they only need certificates from their home countries.
Culture Minister Helena Trestikova says she is ready to resign from her post if she is forced to appoint Frantisek Formanek as her deputy. Mrs Trestikova said she had refused to appoint him earlier as she had chosen another candidate for the post. Mrs Trestikova said on Thursday she understood that the current political negotiations were complex but she was not willing to sacrifice her honour and dignity in order to keep her post.
The Social Democrats say they are ready to monitor the property situation of MPs Milos Melcak and Michal Pohanka not only in the near future but even after five or ten years. Party leader Jiri Paroubek made the statement on Thursday, one day ahead of a crucial confidence vote in the lower house. Social Democrat MPs Melcak and Pohanka said earlier they were prepared to enable the centre-right coalition government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to win confidence in Friday's vote. The Social Democrats have made allegations of corruption.
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