One year on, flood-devastated village of Horin still a ghost town

08-08-2003

It's a year now since rivers in the Czech Republic burst their banks, causing the worst flooding the country had seen for hundreds of years. The floods left seventeen people dead, towns and villages badly damaged and in some cases destroyed, and a bill of more than two and a half billion dollars - and that's not taking into account lost wages, ruined crops and other hard-to-trace costs.

In Prague damage left by the flooding has still to be fully repaired - the metro might be running again and the medieval quarter of Mala Strana has been restored almost to normal, but a few miles away in the district of Karlin, they're still struggling to make sure flood-damaged buildings don't collapse. And elsewhere in the country too the effects of the floods are still keenly felt. One of the worst affected was the village of Horin, around 30 kilometres north of Prague. Radio Prague's Dita Asiedu is in Horin, and earlier I asked her to describe the scene there.

"One year after the floods, it's still a ghost town. There's no-one here. Maybe some people are inside their houses, or away at work, but there is little sign of normal life in the town. There are construction workers everywhere, who've either come from different towns to help out, or they're people who are repairing their own homes. It's shocking - I had no idea such places still existed one year after the floods."

Have you had the opportunity to speak to any of the local people there?

"Well as I say, there was hardly anybody to ask. There was one woman I tried to speak to - she started crying as soon as I mentioned floods. I spoke to another lady who said she was born in the village of Horin. She had been living in her family's house, which had six rooms, and it was so badly damaged it had to be town down. She now lives in temporary housing, just one room. She has a husband and two kids, and she just doesn't know what's going to happen - she doesn't have the money to rebuild her house."

Do people have the feeling that the authorities are not doing enough to help them?

"Well there's actually very little the authorities can do for these people now. At the beginning, each resident received five thousand crowns, and then there were lots of donations, a voucher for furniture etc. The Czech Green Cross came and found sponsors for bricks for twenty new houses. Just after the floods, the state said people affected could apply for advantageous loans of up to 800,000 crowns. But unfortunately the residents of the village of Horin were not able to get the loans because there was a stipulation that the village had to have a ground plan, and Horin didn't."

Horin is near the Spolana chemical plant, which was affected by the flooding - there was severe leakage of toxic chemicals into the surrounding air and water. Did that affect Horin?

"After the floods, the residents were travelling miles away from home to buy eggs and vegetables so they wouldn't be contaminated by Spolana - they weer scared to eat the local produce. But then experts proved that the land around Horin was not contaminated."

What about the mayor of Horin - was he optimistic his village would return to normal some time in the future?

"He wasn't - he said by the time the village is returned to normal, he will no longer be mayor. He said it would take decades before the village was returned to its natural state. I actually visited Horin before the floods, and I remember it as a lovely, lively place - now the situation is obviously very different."

08-08-2003