Floods past their peak, state of emergency in seven regions

03-04-2006

Following a critical weekend in the north and east, water levels are now levelling off or even subsiding in most parts of the Czech Republic. Nevertheless there is a state of emergency in half of the country's 14 regions and hundreds of people remain in temporary shelters.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK Daniela Lazarova has been following developments and joins me now in the studio. Daniela, what is the situation at present - are we over the worst?

Well, after five days of rising water levels in many parts of the country it seems that the situation has finally stabilized in most areas. The weekend was still critical for people in Moravia, the eastern part of the country, and north Bohemia, particularly the city of Usti nad Labem which continued to evacuate people over the weekend. I spoke to the mayor of Usti nad Labem Petr Gandalovic at mid-day on Monday:

"The situation here continues to be rather critical. The water level is expected to reach its peak today at 8 metres 80cms which means that one of the two bridges in Usti has had to be closed down and that is causing tremendous traffic jams."

How many people have had to be evacuated so far?

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK "It is about 400 people. Most of them chose individual solutions -going to relatives and friends- rather than joining a group evacuation so we have about 40 people in shelters right now."

In many places it wasn't so much a question of fast rising water levels but rather man-made barriers and embankments giving way under the pressure. That was the case in Usti and also in the Moravian town of Olomouc where an embankment holding back the water gave way during the night and people were woken by sirens at 2am for an emergency evacuation. That was one of the biggest night operations during which 2,500 people were evacuated.

You said the situation appears to have stabilized in other parts of the country. Have people been able to return to their homes and start picking up the pieces?

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK In some parts of the country yes, but in others the water level is still too high to allow that. That's also why there is a state of emergency in force in seven regions -that's to help the authorities to prevent looting. Many towns and villages are still underwater, they are deserted and patrols are moving around in boats. There's no electricity, some water treatment plants are out of operation and people's wells are full of muddy flood water so it may take a while for people to be able to return. Of course, where it is possible people have gone back to check up on their property and have even started clean up work but the big clean up operation in the wake of these floods is still to come. And the same goes for damage assessment. It won't be as bad as in the 2002 floods, but it will be considerable. Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has proposed setting aside 5 billion crowns to cover the damage and the government is to debate the technicalities at its nearest session on Wednesday.

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