Seven people were killed and about 70 injured in a train accident in north
Moravia on Friday morning. An international express train going from Krakow
to Prague crashed at about 140 km per hour into a motorway bridge which had
collapsed onto the rail tracks. Emergency crews and fire fighters from
across Moravia have been called to the site of the accident. Six bodies –
five Czech women and a man from Poland – were found in the wreckage and a
seventh person, a Ukrainian, died later in hospital. Many of the passengers
on the train were young people travelling to a concert in Prague. Among the
injured are Poles, French, Slovaks and a Ukrainian. A rescue services
spokesman said 13 people were seriously hurt.
The Czech and Polish prime ministers, Mirek Topolanek and Donald Tusk, visited the scene to observe rescue efforts. Two emergency phone lines have been set up for the victims’ families: (+420) 974 723 202 and (+420) 974 723 201.
The bridge, which was being rebuilt, apparently collapsed while the train was approaching or passing underneath. The train driver pulled the emergency brake and jumped into the engine room, surviving with light injuries. The cause of the collapse is not clear and will be subject to thorough investigation by the authorities.
Over five hundred soldiers who returned from the KFOR mission in Kosovo have been decorated for their efforts by the Czech army. Czech troops returned to the Czech Republic last week, marking the end of the Czech mission in the Balkans. Amongst their most recent duties was the monitoring of Serb demonstrations following Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February. The Czech Republic recognized Kosovo’s independence in May and two weeks ago opened an embassy in the capital Pristina.
Two dozen Czech followers of the spiritual movement Falun Gong gathered outside the Chinese Embassy in Prague on Thursday to stage a peaceful protest against human rights abuse in China. The demonstration will continue until Friday evening. The organizers have called on Czechs to join the global event in support of Tibet at 2.08 p.m. - the start of the Olympic Games in Beijing - by lighting a candle and praying for peace.
In related news, forty of the world’s top athletes, including Czech runner Jakub Holuša, have signed a petition calling for a free Tibet. In a public appeal to President Hu Jintao they urge a peaceful and democratic solution to the situation in Tibet, the release of all prisoners of conscience and respect for human rights. Twenty-year-old Jakub Holuša, who is Europe’s junior champion in the 3,000 metres steeplechase, said the appeal was in line with what the Olympic Games represented.
The head of Czech National Library Vlastimil Ježek says the dispute over the planned new building of the National Library in Prague can only be resolved by court. He made the statement in reaction to Thursday’s decision of the EC, which concluded that the competition for a new national Library building in Prague was not in keeping with the law on public tenders. The competition was won last year by Czech-born British architect Jan Kaplický with his modern designed nicknamed “the blob”. Mr Ježek says he is not planning to abolish the original tender for the time being.
The Czech government has chosen a company which will translate documents from Czech into English, French and German and vice versa during its upcoming EU presidency. The government expects to spend four to eight million crowns (up to 500 000 US dollars) on the translations. The Czech Republic will take over EU presidency in January 2009. The winner of the tender is Prague-based translation and language centre Presto.
More than 8000 animals were killed in traffic accidents on Czech roads last year, which is an increase by 1000 since 2006, the Lidové Noviny daily reports. Animals are the second most frequent cause of traffic accidents in the country. Most of the accidents happen in April and May in the early morning hours. Unlike in the neighbouring Germany, protective fences have only been installed along the motorways.
Czech dairies as well as their Slovak, German and Austrian counterparts have raised objections to the Netherlands' request to use the EU-wide protected designation “Edam Holland” for its Edam cheese. Czech farmers argue that this type of cheese is now produced in many countries, including the Czech Republic.
Long-term parking at Prague’s Ruzyně airport costs 2,000 crowns (over 125 US dollars) per week, which is the highest rate in central Europe, the E15 internet daily reports. Airports in Munich and Vienna, for example, charge about 500 crowns less. Cheaper car parks for Czech drivers, which charge around 1,200 crowns a week, are available three bus stops from the terminals.
The Old Town Hall in Prague has launched an exhibition of photographs by famous Czech photographer Josef Koudelka. The exhibition, entitled Josef Koudleka – Invasion 68 commemorates the 40th anniversary of 21 August 1968 – the day of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Many of the exhibited photos have not been published yet; the snapshots were secretly transported to the West and Koudelka acknowledged his authorship as late as in 1984.