People in the north-western regions of the country are scrambling to secure their homes after meteorologists warned they could be hit by fresh floods in the coming days. Thousands of homes in the Liberec region remain uninhabitable after last weekend’s devastating flash floods which claimed five lives and caused billions of crowns in damages. A belt of rain moving across the country is now likely to put at risk the Plzen, Liberec and Ustí nad Labem regions with meteorologists predicting persistent rain and high winds for several days. As water levels rise people have been warned to stay off the country’s rivers, after a 16 year-old-girl drowned on a canoeing trip last weekend.
Visiting the flood-stricken region, Agriculture Minister Ivan Fuksa said neither the state nor municipalities should continue to fund the reconstruction of homes that have been repeatedly flooded. He said the authorities should encourage people to move to safer ground, even at the cost of losing money in the process. One option currently being discussed is that the State Land Fund would provide people in high risk areas with new plots of land to build on – in exchange for the plots they now own. The state and insurance companies would help flood victims fund the construction of new homes instead of repeatedly paying for flood damage and emergency aid.
Interior Minister Radek John has accused environmental activists of being co-responsible for the enormity of the flood damage in the Liberec region. Speaking to journalists in the flood-ravaged town of Hřensko on Friday, Mr. John said that the practice of letting fallen trees lie in the local nature reserve presented a serious hazard. In last weekend’s flood many of the fallen trees were dislodged by the raging waters and jammed the basin of the river Kamenice causing the torrent to spill over into nearby villages. Several town mayors have also pointed their fingers at environmentalists, saying that they had not allowed trees along waterways to be chopped down in order to widen river basins for protection.
Czech public television has announced that it will extend its analog broadcasts to north Bohemia beyond August 31 in view of the floods which have left thousands of families in financial difficulties. A spokesman for Czech TV said that in view of the crisis the planned transition to digital and satellite broadcasts exclusively would take place at a later date.
The Czech president may see his income reduced and taxed within the government’s austerity measures. The cabinet has proposed reducing the president’s monthly salary – which amounts to 196.000 crowns – by five percent and levelling a 15 percent tax on his income. Ex-president Vaclav Havel will also see his 50 thousand crown monthly income taxed. Under current law the president alone is exempted from tax duty. Neither President Klaus, not ex-president Havel have commented on the proposal.
The ministries of transport, interior, agriculture and defence will be most severely affected by the government’s austerity package in 2011, the CTK news agency reported Friday. The transport ministry will have to operate on a 10-billion-crown lower budget, the interior will get 8 billion crowns less than this year and the ministries of agriculture and defence will have to take 5 billion crown cuts each. Cabinet members have been given until next Friday to outline ways of implementing the reductions. The Foreign Ministry has already announced plans to lay-off over a hundred employees and close down six embassies.
A factory at Chrastava, which makes car ceilings for the Czech Republic’s biggest carmaker Škoda Auto, has been able to partly renew production after being closed down for several days due to flood damage. A spokesman for the plant said it was now operating at 75 percent. The fall-out in supply made Škoda Auto halt its production line for 48 hours this week. Normal production is expected to resume on Monday.
An engine driver is being investigated by the police for turning up for work heavily intoxicated. The forty-nine-year-old train driver turned up for his shift and drove the engine from the depot to the station where he was asked to take a breathalyzer test by his supervisor, who’d been alerted to the problem. When he refused to do so his superior called the police who found that the man had a blood alcohol content of 4 per mille. He is likely to be charged with presenting a public health risk and may face a year in prison.
The Czech economy posted a 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted growth in the second quarter compared to 0.5 percent in the first, according to figures published by the Czech Statistical Office on Friday. Year-on-year GDP rose 2.2 percent in the second quarter, as the economic recovery gathered pace. The GDP rise was favourably influenced by growth in the manufacturing industry, and was in line with analysts’ expectations.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych has reached the last eight of the Toronto ATP Masters tournament and will now face former world number one Roger Federer. Berdych, seeded seventh, beat 21-year-old Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov 6:3, 6:7, 6:4 to get to the quarterfinals. Friday’s encounter with Federer, seeded third, gives Berdych a chance to build on his two victories over the Swiss player already this year. The last was on the Czech’s route to this year’s Wimbledon men’s singles final.