At least three people drowned in flash floods which hit northern areas of
the Czech Republic on Saturday, police and rescue officials have said. The
floods struck primarily in the region of Liberec and the neighboring
nad Labem which declared a state of emergency. Among those who died in the
floods was an elderly man trapped in his home in Dolní Libchava near
Česká Lípa. Officials expect the final toll could be higher, as three
people remain missing - including a man who was last seen falling into
Along with the toll in lives, floodwaters on Saturday caused untold damage to property and infrastructure, grinding through asphalt roads and railway lines, sweeping away cars, and damaging or destroying personal homes. Around 2,000 people were evacuated from their homes by rescue workers and military personnel called in to deal with the calamity.
Some 700 professional as well as voluntary fire fighters worked around the clock together with the army, which supplied military and police helicopters for rescue missions, as well as heavy machinery and two amphibious vehicles. Both the head of the General Staff, Vlastimil Picek, and Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra flew to flood-stricken areas to assess the damage.
A 16-year-old girl is feared dead after a raft she was on with four others flipped over on the Ohře River near Karlovy Vary. The accident happened shortly after noon on Sunday; the five had been attempting to shoot through a sluice. After the raft flipped, four made it to the river's edge. Police and rescue workers have since been searching for the girl’s body. An official said the flipped raft was following another that had made it through successfully. But, he said, the sluice was dangerous and not intended for such attempts. None of the rafters were wearing safety vests.
The Minister for Labour and Social Affairs Jaromír Drábek has said that immediate financial help for families and individuals who lost property or a place to stay in the floods will be possible within the next few days. Speaking on Czech TV on Sunday, the minister made clear that people could receive up to 47,000 crowns, depending on their material and financial situations. Those requiring help will be able to apply at their local town hall, depending on place of residence. Under existing legislation, additional funds are also available to those who can not afford even basic items or accessories.
In related news, the Ploučnice broke its banks on Sunday, sending a new wave of flooding in the area of Česká Lípa. Several streets in the historic centre of Mimoň were flooded with metre-high water. Fire fighters are at the scene and have been building sandbag barricades to try and block the flood from spreading still further. Gardening land and a local football field, as well as nearby meadows, were also hit by water.
A 48-year-old pilot in the area of Vsetín in the east of the country suffered serious injury on Sunday morning when he crashed his ultra-light plane – hitting a tree in foggy conditions. An ambulance took him to hospital in Valašske Meziříčí. Fire fighters secured the scene. The incident will be investigated by an inspection team.
The governor of the Liberec region has estimated that damage from the flash floods which hit the Czech Republic could exceed one billion crowns (the equivalent of 53.4 million US dollars). The governor, Stanislav Eichler, made the estimate during Sunday afternoon’s visit by Czech President Václav Klaus. Structures which suffered damage include bridges, footbridges and personal homes. Damage to public property in one village, Chrastava, has been estimated at 100 million crowns alone. Meanwhile, several hundred people in flood-hit areas have already begun contacting insurance companies with claims.
Although waters have since begun to recede in some areas, flood warnings
remained in ten places on Sunday morning with officials urging drivers,
example, not to head for Frýdlant, badly hit by the floods on Saturday.
The army and fire fighters are working to clear routes there as the day
A number of train lines remain closed due to collapsed ground, debris or mudslides, although the line to Dresden, Germany is reportedly now running. Meanwhile, power remains down in three regions where the utility ČEZ earlier declared a state of calamity: Ústí nad Labem, Liberec and Děčin: although some power has been restored, 1,700 households in northern Bohemia remain without electricity.
Rivers or streams on which water levels have begun to drop include the Kamenice, Lužická Nisa, Mandava, and Jeřice but 3rd level warnings (the second highest issued by the Hydrometeorological Institute) remained elsewhere.
In South Bohemia, an emergency flood alert warning has been issued for the Lužnice, which flows through Bechyně and is threatening to break its banks. The town of Veselí nad Lužnicí has begun preparing inhabitants for possible evacuation from their homes.
Twenty-eight-year-old tennis player Klára Zakopalová has lost in the final of the Danish Open in Copenhagen. The player faced home favourite Caroline Wozniacki but was defeated straight sets: 2:6, 6:7. Despite the loss, the Czech player moved from the 51st to 30th in the world ranking on the women’s circuit. That puts her within reach of her best previous placement, 27th, which she held in March 2006. Although she didn’t win in Copenhagen, Zakopalová described the tournament as a great week and said she looked forward to returning next year.
The City of Prague has halted traffic and transport on the Vltava after water flow on Sunday morning was measured at 600 cubic metres per second. Expected weather conditions should see an even greater volume. Piers will be closed and all transport and activity on the river stopped, deputy mayor Rudolf Blažek said. Anti-flood barriers, such as the one near the Four Seasons hotel not far from the historic Old Town Square, are be putting into effect in keeping with the city’s anti-flood measures.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has said that the clean-up of the devastation will change budget priorities, stressing that the government has funds in budget reserves which could be allocated to repair damages. The government will hold a special meeting on Monday to assess the situation; the prime minister has not yet said how much funding could be released but expects that an assessment of the costs will be ready within a few days. The prime minister, like the Czech President Václav Kláus, is also heading for the Liberec region to see the impact up close; the president visited on Sunday afternoon.
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