The emergency rescue services say there is little chance that four people, missing after an accident at in explosives plant in east Bohemia on Wednesday, could still be found alive. A huge explosion, heard as far as 20 kilometres away, levelled a building at Explosia in the Pardubice area. Fire fighters and rescue teams with sniffer dogs laboured for seven hours to find any sign of the four, who are believed to be buried under the rubble. In the blast, eight others suffered slight injuries: seven were treated on site by ambulance personnel. Their injuries included cuts from broken glass while two people had suffered shock. Explosia said the accident involved nitroglycerin, used as an agent in explosives manufacture. Fire fighters called off the search on Wednesday afternoon when it was hampered by the danger of additional explosions. The search for the missing is to resume on Thursday.
The police are investigating the apparent suicide of a fellow officer from the country’ anti-corruption unit: the man shot himself in broad daylight on Monday in Prague’s Letná park, not far from the Interior Ministry. The elite detective was the head of a section investigating money laundering and tax evasion but had been dismissed on the suspicion of mishandling funds that are used, for example, to payoff informants. Officials said, all the same, that no concrete motive was apparent and the officer left no suicide note. An autopsy has been ordered.
The Czech government has agreed on spending for the fiscal period of 2012 through 2014, with expenditure from the state budget and state funds set at levels that could allow a balanced budget within five years. The Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek revealed the information after the cabinet’s meeting on Wednesday. The framework agreed will see the deficit meet 3.5 percent of GDP next year, 2.9 in 2013, and 1.9 in 2014. The finance minister stressed that the agreement showed fiscal discipline on the part of the government, saying that if the economy improved and revenues increased, the extra funds would be added to lower the deficit.
The government crisis, drawing to an end after coalition parties agreed on a cabinet reshuffle this week, has not affected the preparation of fundamental reform bills, Prime Minister Petr Nečas, the leader of the Civic Democrats and Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek of TOP 09 agreed on Wednesday. Both said the original date of submitting the first stage of health care, pension and social systems reforms mid-year would be met. Mr Kalousek suggested that while the crisis over the last fortnight that hit the government appeared to dominate, it was not true some progress hadn’t been made. The coalition was badly shaken over a corruption scandal in junior party Public Affairs as well as ensuing allegations of underhanded plans by some Civic Democrats. The crisis is seen as being quelled at least for the time being, with the agreement by all three coalition parties over who should head the interior ministry and other issues. The changes are to be confirmed by the country’s president on Thursday.
The right-of-centre Civic Democrats will mark the 20th anniversary of their party on Thursday; current party leader Petr Nečas will open proceedings at a special event at Prague’s Žofin, but there is little doubt all eyes will be on two former party heads and former prime ministers Václav Klaus (the current president) and Mirek Topolánek. Mr Klaus led his party to success in the Czech Republic in the 1990s, largely defining its focus and direction before it hit its first crisis in 1997. Mr Topolánek, his successor, also left a strong imprint, leading the party to its strongest ever finish (more than 35 percent of the vote) in the general election in 2006. The two often clashed in the past over the party’s direction.
The European Commission has given the green light for the world’s most powerful laser, the ELI or Extreme Light Infrastructure to be built in the Czech Republic. The project and accompanying research centre in Dolní Březany is set to cost 6.7 billion crowns. The centre is expected to become operational in 2014. The laser will be used to conduct complex cellular research or research tumour treatment methods, the Czech news agency reported. ELI is a joint project involving 40 scientific institutes from 13 EU countries; sources say that the Czech Republic’s gain of having the laser was something of a ‘coup’: news website Czech Position cited an undisclosed source as saying the French president had hoped to have the new laser located at a centre in Paris.
Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka has indicated that three new bells could soon be added to Prague’s St Vitus Cathedral as replacements for original ones which bore the names Marie, Dominik, and Ježíš, that were requisitioned during the First World War but never replaced. Three spots in the rafters of the cathedral have been empty ever since. The replacements are expected to cost 1.6 million crowns. City Hall, Prague Castle Administration and a number of professors from Prague’s technical university, CVUT, have pledged to help raise the funds necessary for the project; documentation on the original bells is currently being put together.
The renowned American novelist Don DeLillo gave a reading on Tuesday at the American Center, an event organised as part of this year’s Prague Writers’ Festival. DeLillo, the author of acclaimed and highly-influential novels such as White Noise, Underworld, and Mao II, usually avoids festivals the PWF’s spokesman confirmed. A day earlier, Mr DeLillo also signed copies of his work for readers at a major Prague bookstore. The author is one of the headliners at this year’s PWF. Writers who have taken part in the past include Michel Houellebecq, Nadine Gordimer, Martin Amis and Irvine Welsh.
Floorball’s Tatran Střešovice completed a stunning comeback in the Extraliga finals in game 5 of the best-of-five series, defeating Ostrava to win their 14th playoff title. Tatran – the defending champions – were down and out for most of the match, at one point by 5:0. But Tatran managed to come back in the final minutes, scoring six in the third period to tie the game at 8 goals apiece. The winner came in overtime off the stick of Milan Garčar, who lashed the ball past the goalie from distance. Garčar is a key player who won bronze with the Czech national team at the World Championship in Helsinki last year.
In hockey, the NHL playoffs continued on Tuesday, with the Chicago Blackhawks staving off elimination in style by crushing the Vancouver Canucks. The Blackhawks won the game 7:2, also having gotten a goal and two assists from Czech forward Michael Frolík. Frolík was also named the game’s third star. Chicago still have a tough hill to climb, now down 3:1 in the best-of-seven series.
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