Lightning storms and bouts of torrential rain over the weekend caused isolated calamities around the Czech Republic, however no extensive flooding has been reported. In the Moravian region of Šumperk a young man was killed when a group of four tourists was struck by lightening. In the northern Bohemian region of Ústí nad Labem flash floods swept away part of a road and a small bridge; firemen reported 81 calls in the region, where waterways rose by up to a meter. In Slovakia the country’s main summer music festival ended in tragedy on Saturday when high winds brought down the four-tonne main festival tent. Hundreds of spectators were attending a concert in the tent when it collapsed, killing one man and injuring more than 50, including at least two Czechs.
More than half of the holidaymakers stranded abroad by the sudden closure of the travel agency Tomi Tour have been returned to the Czech Republic. According to Tomi Tour’s insurance company, Union pojišťovna, 500 have been bussed home from Italy and Croatia, while Czech Airlines has secured the return of 1,200 from the Canary Islands, Egypt, Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. One of the largest travel agencies in the Czech Republic, Tomi Tour declared bankruptcy Friday evening, literally marooning some 3,200 of its clients on holiday outside the Czech Republic. It is the third travel agency in the Czech Republic to declare bankruptcy this summer. According to the Association of Czech Travel Agencies, its closure marks the industry’s most serious case of insolvency in the last 12 years.
Six more cases of swine flu have been reported in the Czech Republic, bringing the number of infections in the country to 27. In the last two days the Ministry of Health has confirmed the virus in a three-year-old boy, his mother and grandmother, and in three other women. Most of the infected individuals had recently returned from the United States or the UK, however one apparently contracted the flu in her place of business in the centre of Prague, marking only the second case of domestic infection. The child is currently being monitored in hospital. Epidemiologists are anticipating a greater spread of the virus in the autumn, when they say it could mix with standard seasonal flu viruses. The Czech Republic’s chief hygiene officer Michael Vít has said it is possible to expect up to two million infections and 40,000 hospitalisations.
The former leader of the Green Party and environment minister, Martin Bursík, has confirmed he does not intend to return to politics. Defying expectations he would be announce his candidacy in autumn elections on Sunday, Mr Bursík instead announced he plans to devote himself to environmental issues outside of politics. In Mr Bursík’s absence, a convention of the Green Party in Prague nominated councilman Petr Štěpánek to top the ballot for the city in the October poll. After five years as Green Party chairman, Mr Bursík resigned the position in June this year after the party’s poor showing in elections to the European Parliament.
The Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office has released its annual report, in which it states that the rate of criminality in the Czech Republic has not changed over the long-term, though there have been changes in the rates of particular crimes and the participation of foreigners. The report states for example that murder investigations are declining, down to 177 from 280 in 1999. Increases have been noted elsewhere however, for example in economic crimes such as customs and tax fraud. New trends have also been seen in human trafficking in the Czech Republic, particularly involving forced labour and prostitution. The Public Prosecutor’s Office also stated it could not rule out a coming rise in criminality as a result of the global economic crisis.
The value of public construction orders in the first half of 2009 fell by 37% compared with the last half of 2008. The number of orders has slumped similarly to 1779, a decline of one third. Experts from the engineering and consultancy firm IS, which released the analysis, stated they do not expect the situation to develop for the better in the next period either, saying they anticipate a year-on-year decline in public building orders of 10-15%
The government is to discuss a new regional development plan on Monday that reportedly includes controversial plans for the Czech Republic’s nuclear power plants. The news servers Aktualne.cz and Deník.cz reported that in addition to proposing the completion of the Temelín nuclear power plant, the development plan also insinuates the construction of a third nuclear fission plant in North Moravia. Ecologists and civic organisations have bristled at the plan, which they say is ecologically and financially unsound, and should at least be left to an elected, rather than caretaker, government.
The South Moravian town of Miroslav has a new dumpling king in Jaromír Rafaj, who managed to devour 105 apricot dumplings in 20 minutes at the annual apricot harvest celebration. It was not enough to break the record however, 125, which remains with the contest’s five-time champion Karel Hamerský, who came in 2 dumplings shy of victory this year. An estimated 1,000 onlookers were present for the harvest celebration, which also included concerts and other contests for the “most beautiful apricot” and the best-quality apricot brandy. The Miroslav apricot harvest has been celebrated every year since 1990.
One of the largest Czech travel agencies, Tomi Tour, has declared bankruptcy, literally marooning some 3,000 of its clients currently on holiday outside the Czech Republic. Czech Airlines has announced it would be working with the Slovakian insurance company Union pojišťovna to send empty airliners for the stranded holidaymakers, who are mainly in Egypt, Majorca and Turkey. Approximately 10,000 people currently have trips purchased from Tomi Tour, and can apply for compensation from Union pojišťovna. Tomi Tour is the third travel agency in the Czech Republic to declare bankruptcy this summer. According to the Association of Czech Travel Agencies, its closure marks the industry’s most serious case of insolvency in the last 12 years.
The newly formed centre-right party, TOP 09, has announced that former Christian Democrat chairman and finance minister Miroslav Kalousek will be standing for parliament in early elections at the top of the party’s ballot in Central Bohemia. Last week the party announced another notable candidate, former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who is to lead the party’s Prague ballot. Mr Kalousek and Mr Schwarzenberg formed the party at the end of May, however it was uncertain whether the two popular politicians would themselves stand as candidates. Polls have suggested that TOP 09 will likely pass the 5% threshold required to win seats in parliament.
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