Continuing heavy rainfall, as feared, has seen rivers in parts of the country break their banks, leading to flash floods that have driven hundreds of people from their homes. Areas suffering from floods are namely the north and north-east of the country. The region of Liberec has been hard hit: around a thousand people had to be evacuated from their homes on Saturday, with some scrambling onto rooftops as they waited for help. Power lines, parts of train routes and roads have all been affected. The nearby Fýdlant was practically cut-off by floodwaters, which also flowed right through the centre of the town, leaving property damaged and cars overturned. Two casualties in the region have since been confirmed, with one person still missing. The calamity has led two regions – Liberec and Ústí nad Labem – to declare states of emergency.
In related news, Liberec officials called for help from the military to aid fire fighters and rescue teams as the situation grew out of control. The military has so far sent five helicopters, together with specialists and machinery – including two amphibious vehicles - to complement some 700 professional and voluntary fire fighters operating in the Liberec and Ústí areas. An additional 450 soldiers are on stand-by; Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra and the chief of the General Staff, General Vlastimil Picek, have flown to the region to survey developments. In the region of Plzeň in the west of the country meanwhile, locals are on alert; sandbag barricades have been laid at key spots and other precautions are being taken. As heavy rains continue across the country into Sunday, further areas could be hit.
The giant power utility ČEZ on Saturday declared a state of calamity in three areas: Liberec, Ústí nad Labem, and nearby Děčín. More than 2,000 sites are now without electricity. Company crews are working to try and restore power but are facing complications from the rain, floodwaters and fallen trees across power lines. A company spokeswoman said there had been some success citing three villages – Srní, Provodín and Lázně Libverda – where electricity had been restored.
The Prague Civic Democrats are expected to officially announce their candidate for mayor in local elections this autumn on Monday, but the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes has suggested that party bosses themselves are still far from decided. Names floated earlier include actor/senator Tomáš Topfer and emergency services head Zdeněk Schwarz. But neither man has officially been contacted and both denied any interest in the post, the paper said. The Civic Democrats are under pressure to find a strong candidate to run against rivals such as Markéta Reedová (former deputy mayor) for Public Affairs or Zdeněk Tůma (the former governor of the central bank, running for Top 09). In the national election back in May, it was newcomer TOP 09 that scored better than the Civic Democrats in Prague, which had long been their bastion.
The Justice Ministry sent an official request to Switzerland on Friday for the extradition of wanted Czech businessman Tomáš Pitr – who has been avoiding justice in the form of two prison sentences for tax fraud and embezzlement. His whereabouts had been unknown since 2007, but he was arrested recently by Swiss police while at a recreation centre in St Moritz. Mr Pitr, his lawyer said, maintains he is innocent, saying he fled the Czech Republic for fear of his life. Pitr was a close associate of the late businessman Frantíšek Mrázek, who was considered a major figure in the Czech underworld but was killed by a sniper’s bullet. There has been speculation that Mr Pitr may have obtained a wealth of compromising material on business figures and politicians which Mrázek compiled, ČTK said. It is expected that Mr Pitr's extradition could take up to one year.
The environment minister, Pavel Drobil, will be among new members of the Czech National Security Council, the body designed to coordinate responses and necessary steps during periods of national crisis. The prime minister’s proposal for the council’s new membership is to be discussed by the government as the next cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Other members will include the ministers of defence and interior as well as Finance Minister Miloslav Kalousek, Health Minister Leoš Heger and Transport Minister Vít Barta. On Wednesday, the cabinet will also discuss the new membership of parliament’s security and defence committee.
Tennis player Klára Zakopalová, 51st in the world on the women’s circuit, has made it to the final of the Danish Open in Copenhagen. The player defeated China’s Li Na by a score of 6-3, 1-6, 6-4; Li fought back in the 3rd set to 4:4 but the Czech was able to take the final two games. A win in the Copenhagen final would represent Zakopalová’s third career title. Previously she won on the women’s tour in Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, and Portoroz in Slovenia. Over the course of her career she has appeared in 10 finals overall.
Tennis player Tomáš Berdych has been defeated in the quarterfinal of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington. Berdych, a finalist at Wimbledon this year, lost in three sets to Belgium’s Xavier Malisse. The score was 4:6, 6:3, 2:6. Despite the defeat, the Czech player will move up to 7th place in the ATP rankings, the best standing in his career to date.
Long-distance swimmer Rostislav Vítek completed his best-ever finish in competition at the European Championship at Lake Balaton in Hungary, coming fifth in the 25 kilometre. He bested his previous best result by one. A second Czech racer, Libor Smolka, finished 12th. The race was won by defending champion Valerio Cleri of Italy, who finished with a time of 5:16:20,3 – just 16.4 second ahead of his nearest rival, French swimmer Bertrand Venturi.
Czech football goalie Petr Čech – the starter for the national squad – will miss next Wednesday’s friendly against Latvia as he is still not 100 percent fit, after injuring a calf muscle in July. The news was confirmed by former player turned manager Vladimír Šmicer. National team coach Michal Bílek has called up Jan Laštůvka – who plays for the Ukranian club Dnipropetrovsk to take Čech’s place.
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