Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has said it is very likely Jiří Čunek will be reinstated as deputy prime minister and minister of regional development next week. Mr Topolánek made the comments on a TV debate programme on Sunday. Mr Čunek is the leader of the second biggest party in the coalition government the Christian Democrats. He has been involved in a number of scandals and resigned over a criminal investigation into allegations he had taken bribes. Since that investigation was shelved Mr Čunek has insisted he be allowed to return to cabinet. The Greens, the smallest party in the coalition, have repeatedly expressed reservations over his possible reinstatement.
Mr Topolánek also spoke about his visit to Washington last week, denying that there was any link between a US pledge to add the Czech Republic to its Visa Waiver Programme and American plans to build a radar base in central Bohemia. The prime minister said Czech politicians had been trying to win visa-free travel to the US since 1989 and it was not the work of one government. Mr Topolánek has previously said the Czech Parliament will vote on the radar base around the time of a NATO summit in Bucharest in April. Opinion polls have suggested most Czechs are opposed to the building of such a facility.
Fire officers in the Czech Republic were called out twice as often as
usual following winds of up to 144 KPH on Saturday. Both professional and
volunteer fire-fighters made over 3,000 calls to remove fallen trees from
roads, roofs and fallen high tension lines around the country, a
spokesperson for the national fire brigades association said.
A girl of 11 was killed by a falling branch, while an 80-year-old priest died after being hit by a flying sheet of metal; several others were injured and hundreds were evacuated from their homes. At one point over 900,000 people were without power, though on Sunday afternoon only 25,000 households were still without electricity.
Hurricane-force gales of 140 KPH were also recorded on Sunday but emergency services said the situation was not as bad as the previous day. Winds were expected to die down by Sunday night.
Police halted a concert attended by far-right skinheads in Jeneč near Prague on Saturday night. There were around 80 neo-Nazis at the event, which was held in a pub. Police said it was possible some of them had earlier taken part in a demonstration in the town of Plzeň, which was more sparsely attended than had been expected and passed off peacefully.
Alice Nellis’s Tajnosti, or Little Girl Blue as it is titled in English, has taken the prize for best picture at the Czech Republic’s annual film awards. The Český Lev (Czech Lion) awards were also fruitful for the Svěráks – Jan Svěrák took the best director award for Vratné Lahve (Empties), while his actor father Zdeněk took best screenplay for the same picture. The Český Lev awards were held at the Grand Hall of Prague’s Lucerna and were broadcast live on Czech Television.
The cross country skier Lukáš Bauer has taken another step towards becoming the first Czech ever to win his sport’s season-long World Cup. Bauer came first in the 15 km classic at Finland’s Lahti to increase his healthy points lead in the competition. The Czech could have been crowned World Cup winner on Sunday, but Rene Sommerfeldt of Germany, who is second overall, finished second in the race to keep his theoretical hopes of overtaking Bauer alive.
Prague’s Sazka Arena has been renamed the O2 Arena. Its operators say the arena, opened in time for the 2004 World Ice Hockey Championships and used today as a venue for hockey games and concerts, is the most modern building of its kind in Europe. Under a sponsorship deal set to last five years, the 02 arena is adopting the colour blue used in the mobile operator’s advertisements.
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.