Traffic police are out in force for the weekend conducting a security operation along the country’s main roads and highways. A spokeswoman said the main focus would be on alcohol and speeding, the most frequent cause of death on Czech roads. Since the start of the summer holidays the police have registered 127 road deaths. There is an ongoing debate on the Czech political scene as to whether the law should be changed from zero tolerance of alcohol to a single beer. Both the prime minister and transport minister are strongly against the idea, saying it would only encourage more drivers to drink.
Three Polish nationals who were caught looting in the flooded areas this week remain in detention, the CTK news agency reports. All three have a criminal record and had previously been caught looting in Poland as well. In view of the fact that the transgression happened during a state of emergency they will face higher sentences than usual –with a maximum ceiling of eight years. Police are still searching for a man who robbed one of the flooded homes under the guise of a volunteer aid worker.
Spaniard Dani Pedrosa, riding a Honda, took pole position in the Czech Republic’s MotoGP held in Brno on Saturday timing 1minute 56.508 seconds. American Ben Spies, on a Yamaha, was second fastest while overall leader Jorge Lorenzo, also on a Yamaha, was third fastest after a far from perfect ride which saw him come off his bike. Lorenzo leads Pedrosa in the overall standings by 72 points after nine of the 18 races.
Severe night storms in the eastern part of the country have damaged property and uprooted trees causing transport problems. Hailstones and high winds damaged roofs and glass houses and fire crews were repeatedly called to deal with fallen trees on roads and private property. In the early hours of Saturday a train hit a steel construction from an overhead bridge which may have been loosened by the storm. Fortunately the train was not derailed and no one was hurt in the incident.
The government wants to set up the post of state secretary for European affairs, to make up for a scrapped ministerial post with the same portfolio, the daily Pravo writes in its Saturday edition. The state secretary would be answerable directly to the prime minister. The paper says that according to well-informed sources the position should go to a member of the Civic Democrats. The plan has reportedly evoked criticism for the Civic Democrat’s coalition partners – TOP 09 and Public Affairs who claim that the prime minister’s party is trying to strengthen its position in cabinet at their expense.
Power and gas suppliers to the flooded Liberec region have called off a state of emergency during which time their employees worked around the clock restoring supplies to flooded homes. Power has now been restored to most households and the region’s main gas supplier RWE says that by the end of this weekend only around 500 homes will be without gas. In the wake of the floods more than 4,000 people were cut off from both gas and electricity supplies.
A forty-six year old Czech farmhand who was helping with harvesting work in neighbouring Austria died in an accident on Friday. The woman was behind the wheel of a small tractor which overturned and trapped her beneath it. According to the APA news agency it was a while before someone noticed the accident and by the time a doctor arrived the woman had died of her injuries.
Czechs have donated over 20 million crowns in aid to flood victims and more contributions come in every day, the country’s leading humanitarian organizations report. People in Need, ADRA, the Czech Catholic Charity and the Red Cross have all set up special accounts and are taking in donations via phone mail. Truck-loads of humanitarian aid head for the flooded region every day carrying dryers, shovels, hygiene products and other basic necessities for the clean-up operation. Many people have used part of their annual paid leave to help with the clean-up work.
Roger Federer ended a run of recent losses to Czech seventh seed Tomáš Berdych on Friday winning an inspiring 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5) victory and a place in the semi-finals of the Toronto Masters. Berdych initially looked poised to continue his winning sequence over Federer when he stormed to a 5-2 lead in the third but a relentless Federer refused to fold, finally getting the break he needed with Berdych serving for the match at 5-3. A tiebreak saw Federer jump ahead 4-0 then grimly clinch the victory 7-5 when Berdych sent a return into the net. The third-seeded Swiss had lost twice this season to Czech seventh seed Berdych, in Miami and in a Wimbledon quarter-final barely six weeks ago.
Meanwhile, north-western regions of the country are on high flood alert as water levels rise anew. Thousands of homes in the Liberec region remain uninhabitable after last weekend’s devastating flash floods which claimed five lives and caused billions of crowns in damages. Clean-up work has had to be put on hold and the locals are scrambling to make secure what they can. A belt of rain moving across the country is expected to bring several days of persistent rain and the water-logged ground is no longer able to soak up more rain water. The town of Ustí nad Labem was flooded on Friday with the authorities reporting extensive damages. As water levels rise people have been warned to stay off the country’s rivers, after a 16 year-old-girl drowned on a canoeing trip last weekend.