Fire officers in the Czech Republic were called out twice as often as
usual following winds of up to 144 KPH on Saturday. Both professional and
volunteer fire-fighters made over 3,000 calls to remove fallen trees from
roads, roofs and fallen high tension lines around the country, a
spokesperson for the national fire brigades association said.
A girl of 11 was killed by a falling branch, while an 80-year-old priest died after being hit by a flying sheet of metal; several others were injured and hundreds were evacuated from their homes. At one point over 900,000 people were without power, though on Sunday afternoon only 25,000 households were still without electricity.
Hurricane-force gales of 140 KPH were also recorded on Sunday but emergency services said the situation was not as bad as the previous day. Winds were expected to die down by Sunday night.
Alice Nellis’s Tajnosti, or Little Girl Blue as it is titled in English, has taken the prize for best picture at the Czech Republic’s annual film awards. The Český Lev (Czech Lion) awards were also fruitful for the Svěráks – Jan Svěrák took the best director award for Vratné Lahve (Empties), while his actor father Zdeněk took best screenplay for the same picture. The Český Lev awards were held at the Grand Hall of Prague’s Lucerna and were broadcast live on Czech Television.
Mr Topolánek also spoke about his visit to Washington last week, denying that there was any link between a US pledge to add the Czech Republic to its Visa Waiver Programme and American plans to build a radar base in central Bohemia. The prime minister said Czech politicians had been trying to win visa-free travel to the US since 1989 and it was not the work of one government. Mr Topolánek has previously said the Czech Parliament will vote on the radar base around the time of a NATO summit in Bucharest in April. Opinion polls have suggested most Czechs are opposed to the building of such a facility.
Prague’s Sazka Arena has been renamed the O2 Arena. Its operators say the arena, opened in time for the 2004 World Ice Hockey Championships and used today as a venue for hockey games and concerts, is the most modern building of its kind in Europe. Under a sponsorship deal set to last five years, the 02 arena is adopting the colour blue used in the mobile operator’s advertisements.
Police halted a concert attended by far-right skinheads in Jeneč near Prague on Saturday night. There were around 80 neo-Nazis at the event, which was held in a pub. Police said it was possible some of them had earlier taken part in a demonstration in the town of Plzeň, which was more sparsely attended than had been expected and passed off peacefully.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has said it is very likely Jiří Čunek will be reinstated as deputy prime minister and minister of regional development next week. Mr Topolánek made the comments on a TV debate programme on Sunday. Mr Čunek is the leader of the second biggest party in the coalition government the Christian Democrats. He has been involved in a number of scandals and resigned over a criminal investigation into allegations he had taken bribes. Since that investigation was shelved Mr Čunek has insisted he be allowed to return to cabinet. The Greens, the smallest party in the coalition, have repeatedly expressed reservations over his possible reinstatement.
The cross country skier Lukáš Bauer has taken another step towards becoming the first Czech ever to win his sport’s season-long World Cup. Bauer came first in the 15 km classic at Finland’s Lahti to increase his healthy points lead in the competition. The Czech could have been crowned World Cup winner on Sunday, but Rene Sommerfeldt of Germany, who is second overall, finished second in the race to keep his theoretical hopes of overtaking Bauer alive.
Around 200 ultra-right radicals marched through the west Bohemian city of Pilsen on Saturday afternoon. The scheduled event was delayed due to traffic disruptions caused by strong winds, and attendance was lower than expected. An estimated 500 opponents of the march, mainly anarchists and left-wing activists had gathered in the city to protest against it. The far-right radicals originally planned to hold a demonstration in the city in January but their march was banned by Pilsen mayor Pavel Rödl. However, a court ruled he had overstepped his powers in doing so. The city hall had not banned Saturday’s march but around 1000 police officers were on standby to prevent any clashes between the far-right radicals and the left-wing protestors.
A hurricane-force wind, dubbed Emma, which swept across the Czech Republic, claimed two lives on Saturday. An eleven-year-old girl was killed by a falling tree in the village of Líbeznice, Central Bohemia, on Saturday morning. Rescue workers were unable to save her life after she had sustained fatal injuries to her head and chest. An eighty-year-old man, a Catholic priest, was killed by falling metal plates torn away from a roof in the village of Sadská near the town of Nymburk.
The ČTK news agency reports that Czech citizens applying for asylum in Canada and abusing its social system have again appeared in Canada following the recent lifting of Canadian visas for Czechs. If the number of Czech asylum seekers increases considerably and exceeds the set limit there is a threat that Canada would reimpose visa requirements for Czechs. According to a Czech Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Canada does not view the current situation as alarming and is not considering reintroducing visas for Czechs. Canada lifted visas for Czech citizens last November. The country imposed visa requirements for Czechs in 1997 following an influx of Czech asylum seekers, mostly Romanies.
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