Over a week after a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Southeast Asia, one Czech has been confirmed dead and the number of Czechs still unaccounted for remains at 15. There is strong suspicion that seven of them are also dead. The Czech government has pledged to donate 15 million crowns, eight million of which has already been released, for immediate relief to the affected areas. A further 200 million crowns (6.7 million euros) is to be offered for the restoration of the regions.
Czech charitable organisations have raised over one hundred million crowns (over 3 million euros) and the 19 percent VAT deducted from donor SMS messages will also be given to Asia. Some Czech banks have decided to forgo certain service charges on donations.
Of the Czech tourists who have returned from the stricken areas, eleven were taken to Prague's Bulovka hospital to undergo thorough medical check-ups. Four of them, suffering from diarrhoea, were hospitalised after doctors feared they had contracted infectious diseases. On Thursday, all patients were confirmed healthy.
The Czech supermodel, Petra Nemcova, who survived the tsunami disaster in Thailand with serious injuries, will arrive in Prague on Thursday night. The 25-year-old swimsuit model held onto a palm tree for eight hours before she could be rescued and taken to hospital with a pelvic fracture and internal injuries. Petra Nemcova will continue her recovery in the Czech Republic. Her boyfriend, British photographer Simon Atlee, is still missing.
Czech Agriculture Minister Jaroslav Palas hopes to increase his ministry's authority to be fully responsible for the development of Czech villages and the countryside. Mr Palas said on Thursday that the regions are currently at a loss as several ministries are sharing the responsibility of their development.
The Czech state will have to let go of a number of state grants in order to be able to co-finance projects covered by EU funds. By 2007, the Czech Republic will have to release some 47 billion Czech crowns (1.5 billion euros) a year for this purpose, the Finance Ministry said on Thursday.
A second group of children who survived the three-day hostage crisis at a school in Beslan, southern Russia, last week will arrive in the Czech Republic next week for a recuperative visit. The children will be staying at a sanatorium for four weeks to help them recover from shock. They were supposed to have arrived on Wednesday but the Russian Red Cross refused to pay for their airline tickets. The national air carrier Czech Airlines will send a special plane for them next week.
Australian police are seeking public assistance in their search for a missing Czech tourist who has not been seen since December 18. Police say 42-year-old Lubos Gencur flew into the town of Alice Springs with the intention of hitchhiking to Yulara, some 450 kilometres to the south-west. Mr Gencur was due to fly out of Sydney on December 24 but missed his flight. He was also due to arrive at the world hang-gliding championships in Deniliquin, New South Wales, but failed to show up. Police are asking anyone who may have seen Mr Gencur to contact them.
Meteorologists are promising a warm and dry weekend with maximum daytime temperatures reaching 10 degrees Celsius by the end of the week.
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