The situation in much of the flood affected areas in the Czech Republic is calming down as most swollen rivers have begun to recede. People are starting to return to their homes. Water levels in the badly hit northern region around Usti nad Labem are no longer rising but the homes of 1,645 residents are still flooded and dozens of roads remain closed. A state of emergency declared in seven of the country's 14 regions has been extended until April 19.
The Environment Ministry says Wednesday's rain should not lead to more flooding. Economists estimate the flood damage this year to be considerably lower than that seen in 1997 and 2002, though accurate figures will have to wait until the flood waters recede completely. Seven flood-related deaths have already been reported.
Cabinet, on Wednesday, approved a proposal to raise this year's state budget by 5 billion crowns (over 200 million US dollars) to pay for damages caused by the floods. The government is also considering the creation of a 10 to 15 billion crown fund from which flood defence measures as well as the acquisition of flood damaged buildings would be financed. The Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, Lubomir Zaoralek, said he may declare a state of legislative emergency to allow for the quick passing of laws necessary to free finances for flood relief.
Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency in the first half of this year, has said he would raise the question of possible financial aid from the European Union Solidarity Fund. Some political parties in the Czech Republic have decided to cut back on their election campaign expenditures and donate the money to flood victims. Charity organizations have also opened up accounts for public donations.
Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan says he has no proof that CIA planes carrying war prisoners and suspected terrorists had made stopovers at Prague's Ruzyne Airport. According to human rights watchdog Amnesty International, the planes made a total of twenty stopovers in the Czech capital. There has been ongoing speculation in the world media that the CIA transported suspected terrorists to jails in countries where they could be tortured. The organisation has asked Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan for an explanation, saying that the Czech Republic may have assisted the CIA in violating international law
The European Commission has warned the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and Spain that they are violating EU tobacco advertising rules and threatened further legal action. The EC said that if the four countries failed to answer its concerns within two months it would push ahead with legal proceedings that could lead to lawsuits in an EU court. The 2003 EU law, which was supposed to be inscribed into member states' laws by the end of last July, bans cross-border tobacco advertising within the EU in the print media, on radio and over the internet and forbids tobacco companies from sponsoring cross-border events or activities.
The European Parliament has called on to the EU fifteen to lift a curb on workers from the newest European Union members, including the Czech Republic, who are still facing labour market restrictions. The only countries of the EU fifteen that have their labour markets open so far are Britain, Ireland, and Sweden. Finland, Spain, and Portugal will open their doors to labourers when a two-year transition period ends in May. Germany, Austria, and France will most likely refuse the European Parliament's request and uphold their restrictions on foreign workers.
A regional court in east Bohemia has sentenced two men to prison for shooting pornographic films with underage boys. The boys were paid up to 3,000 crowns for appearing in the videos and sexually pleasing one of the men - a 41 year old British national. The man was fined 200,000 crowns, sentenced to six years in prison, and will be deported after his time is served. The other man, a 22 year-old Czech, received five years.
A new study suggests that the number of overweight adults in the Czech Republic is on a constant rise. In 2005, 52 percent of the population was overweight; 17 percent of them obese. This is three percent higher compared to 2000, says the STEM/MARK agency that conducted the study.
The Prague 1 district is marking the 80th birthday of the esteemed Czech sculptor Olbram Zoubek with an open-air exhibition of his work. For the next two months, his unique slender sculptures will be on display in the Ovocni Trh (Fruit Market) area between the Old Town and Wenceslas squares. The retrospective features a selection of sculptures made from 1958 up to date. Zoubek's work can be admired at various places around Prague. He is the author of the Memorial to the Victims of Communism in the city's Ujezd district.
The next two days will have overcast skies and scattered showers. Day temperatures will rise gradually to reach 16 degrees Celsius this weekend.
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