The Czech Republic has been hit by major floods. A nationwide state of emergency has been declared as water levels on around two dozen rivers keep rising. Five people have died and thousands of homes have been evacuated; among the heaviest hit regions are south, west, north and central Bohemia as well as the capital Prague.
At mid-day on Monday, a dramatic situation has been unfolding in parts of central Bohemia where towns and villages are bracing for rising water levels. The area near the confluence of the Labe and Vltava rivers is at particular risk as both major rivers are swollen with flood waters, and threaten to flood nearby towns and villages. People in the community of Zálezlice, which was devastated by severe flooding 11 years ago, are building provisional barriers to prevent water from entering their village. Jiří Čížek is the local mayor.
“A permanent barrier has not been built yet so we have had to erect a provisional one. But as water levels keep rising, we are afraid the barrier might burst. It keeps raining here, and some of the neighbouring villages have already been flooded. We are piling up more material on the barrier but there has been a leak so it might turn out bad.”
The government declared a state of emergency in all but one region of the Czech Republic; by Monday noon, over 20 rivers have reached extreme flood levels. Heavy and persistent rain first swelled rivers in the south, west and north of the country; by Sunday night, flood water reached the rivers’ upper reaches and some of the major rivers including the Vltava and Labe, threatening more towns and cities including the capital Prague.
One of the towns in southern Bohemia affected by the floods is Český Krumlov on the Vltava. I spoke to Zazu who runs a popular hostel in the town.
“The water that was in the parking lot in front of the hostel is gone. But we still have really high water, and people are quite worried to move around. By my office, the river is so wild that if I open the window, you can really hear it. And that normally is just a little stream.”
How does the situation compare to the 2002 floods that devastated Český Krumlov?
“Until now, it has been better. Back then, the water was much higher so the situation is still good. I could come by bus from Prague this morning. But if the water keeps rising, I’m afraid we going to see just what happened in 2002.”
The situation in regions lying further upstream could deteriorate later on Monday which is when the Vltava is expected to peak in Prague.
Around 7,000 people have been forced to leave their homes. The authorities have evacuated parts of Ústí nad Labem, Děčín as well as dozens of smaller towns and villages. Thousands of homes have also been cut of water and electricity supplies.
The government has released 300 million crowns for immediate assistance to affected communities, and the European Commission has also offered financial help to the Czech Republic along with Germany and Austria which have been hit by major flooding as well. Meteorologists expect conditions to improve by Monday night as rainfall in Bohemia largely subsides; instead, heavy rain is expected in north-eastern parts of the Czech Republic.