Clean up work is underway in many parts of the Czech Republic following a week of heavy flooding. Emergency crews are working on the Znojmo dam which has become jammed with driftwood. Their work is complicated by muddy embankments which make it difficult to position heavy machinery. Meteorologists predict more rain and snow showers in the first half of the week, which could send water levels up again.
Two more cases of bird flu have been detected in the Czech Republic, bringing the overall number to ten. All of the infected birds are swans found in the vicinity of Ceske Budejovice, in southern Bohemia. The last two cases were found on the bank of the Vltava river, close to where one of the previous infected birds was discovered. Protective measures are already in effect in the area. They include a ban on the transport of birds, poultry products and eggs, the use of disinfectants and a ban on outdoor breeding.
The Minister for Regional Development Radko Martinek said on Sunday that the state should help people living in flood-risk areas by buying up their property from a state fund or providing them with a state owned patch of land elsewhere. Martinek pointed out that many of these homes are now virtually impossible to sell and that people living in them feel trapped. The minister is in favour of establishing a special flood fund which would cover the cost of such a project. People who refused to move to safe ground would not in future be eligible for flood support from the government, Martinek said.
The Czech Republic and four other EU member states face legal action by the EC over children's nappies. The European Commission has warned the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Portugal and Malta that they are violating EU rules by allowing nappies to be sold at lowered value added tax levels. Earlier this year, EU finance ministers agreed to extend an agreement by five years which allows VAT on selected goods and services in several member states to be kept lower than the minimum rate of 15 percent. Nappies are not included. The Commission will give the five countries two months to respond before a second warning is issued. Any country failing to heed the second and final warning will face the European Court of Justice.
Top seed Nadia Petrova advanced to the final of the Amelia Island Tournament on Saturday with a 6-3 6-2 win over 15th-seeded Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic. Petrova got her first serve in nearly 80 percent of the time and kept Safarova off balance for most of the match. "Today against Nadia, it was pretty windy, and I didn't play that well," said Safarova.
Forced administration of the country's largest state-owned health insurance company VZP could be terminated by May 1st. Health Minister David Rath said in a televised debate Sunday that this was realistic on condition that the company's insurance plan was completed by that date so as to prevent funds being siphoned off. The minister said that when forced administration ended the insurance company's close to 14 billion crown debt would have been reduced to 5 billion.
As the waters receded individual municipalities started assessing the degree of flood damage. The governor of south Moravia Stanislav Juranek has made a preliminary damage estimate at one billion crowns. The Czech Culture Ministry said the estimated damage to national monuments would amount to approximately 10 million crowns. The Terezin Memorial, the site of a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War, was damaged in the floods as were several churches, castles and chateaux.
The police are investigating a growing number of fake medical prescriptions. The culprits are drug addicts who need a certain type of medicines for home made drugs and dealers on the black market, who sell drugs without prescription at several times their original price. According to Czech public television many people endanger their health by buying diet and potency drugs on the black market.
The number of lorries on Czech roads has doubled since the country's accession to the EU in May of 2004. The situation is expected to get worse in June of this year when newly approved legislation will allow heavy trucks to cross Czech territory on Saturdays and Sundays. Traffic jams and noise pollution have become a serious problem in many parts of the country and the D1 highway from Prague to Brno is perpetually overburdened.
The Social Democrat Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has slammed right wing reforms as a recipe for economic and social disaster. Speaking at an economic forum in Prague, Mr. Paroubek said that a flat tax and other reform plans presented by his party's main rivals in the June general elections -the Civic Democrats - would create a state of egoists. The prime minister whose party has been trailing several points behind the centre right Civic Democrats in opinion surveys, promised voters that he would not enter into a coalition with the Communists, saying that to implement their policy programme would lead the country into an economic crisis.
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