A hurricane-force wind, dubbed Emma, which swept across the Czech Republic, claimed two lives on Saturday. An eleven-year-old girl was killed by a falling tree in the village of Líbeznice, Central Bohemia, on Saturday morning. Rescue workers were unable to save her life after she had sustained fatal injuries to her head and chest. An eighty-year-old man, a Catholic priest, was killed by falling metal plates torn away from a roof in the village of Sadská near the town of Nymburk.
Many parts of the country were hit by blackouts on Saturday, as strong
winds and hailstorms knocked down high-voltage pylons and falling trees
damaged power line cables. The power company ČEZ has declared a state of
emergency in four regions of the Czech Republic: the Pilsen, Karlovy Vary,
Hradec Králové and Pardubice regions. Tens of thousands of people in the
country are left without electricity due to six failures on very
Railway traffic was suspended between Prague and the Moravian town of Olomouc due to power cuts on the line between Česká Třebová and Kolín. Traffic on the R1 highway connecting Prague and the northern town of Liberec was halted on Saturday as a high voltage pylon fell across the road. The country’s fire fighters were called to over 1200 emergencies on Saturday, the busiest day for them since last year’s hurricane Kyrill.
Six families had to be evacuated from a high-rise block of flats in the Prague district of Letňany after a powerful gust of wind tore down the roof of the building and damaged the uppermost floor. According to forecasts, Prague has yet to experience the most severe conditions around 8 pm on Saturday when hurricane-force winds are expected to hit the capital.
Around 200 ultra-right radicals marched through the west Bohemian city of Pilsen on Saturday afternoon. The scheduled event was delayed due to traffic disruptions caused by strong winds, and attendance was lower than expected. An estimated 500 opponents of the march, mainly anarchists and left-wing activists had gathered in the city to protest against it. The far-right radicals originally planned to hold a demonstration in the city in January but their march was banned by Pilsen mayor Pavel Rödl. However, a court ruled he had overstepped his powers in doing so. The city hall had not banned Saturday’s march but around 1000 police officers were on standby to prevent any clashes between the far-right radicals and the left-wing protestors.
Local authorities in south Bohemia declared a high-degree flood alert in several areas on Saturday morning as water levels on rivers in the Šumava Mountains and the Klatovy district rose following heavy rains on Friday night. Meteorologists expect the Vltava River in the region to swell, too, as heavy rains are expected to continue throughout the weekend.
Saturday’s Lidové noviny writes that the Czech-born architect Jan Kaplický, author of the winning design for a new National Library building in Prague, will be entitled to roughly 5 million crowns (300,000 USD) in compensation if he decides to pull out of the project. The Czech National Library which organised an international competition for the design of its new building, says financial compensations are stipulated by the statutes of such international competitions. Mr Kaplický’s futuristic design, nicknamed “the Blob” has been the subject of heated debates over the past year. Among its strongest opponents are Prague mayor Pavel Bém and the Czech president Václav Klaus.
Saturday’s edition of the daily Právo writes that right-wing groups in the Czech Republic are compiling lists of politicians known for their anti-fascist stands. The papers writes that ultra-right extremists use several websites to collect information on people with anti-fascist stances, among them politicians, experts on extremism, and political commentators. According to Právo, the list includes such people as Prague mayor Pavel Bém, Senate chairman Přemysl Sobotka, the head of the Communist Party Vojtěch Filip, and a number of political scientists, journalists and news photographers.
The lawyer of Barbora Škrlová, the Czech woman charged with identity fraud after posing as a 12-year old girl in the Czech Republic and a 13-year old boy in Norway, says he is going to demand that his client should be released from custody in the coming days. He will also demand that her prosecution over alleged torture of Ondřej, the son of her foster mother, should be halted. Ms Škrlová faces up to eight years in prison if found guilty of torturing the boy. He lawyer maintains she did not act on her own will but was forced to perform the acts of torture.
The ČTK news agency reports that Czech citizens applying for asylum in Canada and abusing its social system have again appeared in Canada following the recent lifting of Canadian visas for Czechs. If the number of Czech asylum seekers increases considerably and exceeds the set limit there is a threat that Canada would reimpose visa requirements for Czechs. According to a Czech Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Canada does not view the current situation as alarming and is not considering reintroducing visas for Czechs. Canada lifted visas for Czech citizens last November. The country imposed visa requirements for Czechs in 1997 following an influx of Czech asylum seekers, mostly Romanies.
The leadership of the Czech communist party (KSČM) has formally announced that it aligns itself with the spirit and thinking of the notorious February 1948 communist putsch. The announcement came on Friday afternoon, following a meeting of the party’s leadership. A statement issued by the party noted that it was grateful for the “sacrifice and hard work of the generation that formed the first form of socialism.” However, the party also conceded that this early form of what it deemed “socialism” was replete with “inadequacies and tragic deformations.” The party also formally rejects that it undertook an illegal putsch, insisting that the events in 1948 were a “constitutionally sound revolution, in which wide layers of society took part.” The remarks come as the Czech Republic marks 60 years since the beginning of one party rule in Czechoslovakia, and are likely to infuriate many Czechs.