A smog alert has been called off in the heavily industrialized north-eastern parts of the country following a significant improvement in air-quality. All sixteen monitoring stations in the region reported that the level of pollutants was well below the permitted norm. The smog alert was called last Wednesday triggering an order for the regions’ biggest polluters to scale down production. The authorities likewise put the improvement down to the Christmas break. Air pollution in the region is a long-standing problem and has been proven to have adversely affected the health of the population, particularly in the rise of asthma and allergies among children.
Snow and icy roads are complicating traffic in many parts of the country. In the wake of snow showers and a sharp drop in temperatures many of the country’s smaller roads are hazardous due to ice and snow drifts. Traffic police have warned drivers to exercise caution and not set out without winter gear. Drivers are also complaining of the poor condition of many roads damaged by the tons of salt that maintenance crews use to melt the snow and ice.
Prague airport says that after days of turmoil when it was forced to cancel dozens of flights a day due to bad weather across Europe, the situation is returning to normal. Only one flight to Frankfurt had to be cancelled on Saturday and two flights from Frankfurt and Krakow were cancelled due to problems at the respective airports. Ruzyně airport itself has not been affected by the weather, dispatching all outgoing and incoming flights on schedule.
Over 150 people took part in the annual polar bear plunge into the Vltava river on Sunday, honouring a tradition that goes back to 1923. The vast majority are members of the Club of hardy men and women and the youngest participant was just 13 years old. The temperature of the air was minus 6 degrees Celsius, that of the water was 2,5 degrees. The founder of the tradition –Ladislav Nikodim - who is now 97 failed to turn up this year.
A passenger train headed for Mariánské Lázně crashed into a fallen tree on Saturday night, leaving the train driver seriously injured. None of the passengers sustained injuries though they were forced to disembark and walk to the station through deep snowdrifts. Maintenance crews said the tree must have cracked under the heavy snow and fallen across the tracks just minutes before the train was due to pass there. Rail transport was disrupted for over two hours as emergency crews cleared the track. The accident is being investigated. Five rail tracks have had to be closed due to problems with heavy snow since Friday.
Wildlife conservationists are busy saving dozens of bats which have been woken from hibernation by the extreme cold. Experts say bats woken from hibernation are at serious risk from freezing if they are not helped within a matter of hours. The problem is further complicated by the fact that due to urbanization the number of places where bats can safely spend the winter is fast dwindling. The bats saved are being taken to wildlife stations and will be returned to their natural environment in the spring.
Prague City Hall is giving visitors and residents to the Czech capital a late Christmas present in the form of sports facilities free-of-charge for the duration of a week. Between December 25th and December 31st people can make use of selected sports facilities - including swimming pools, ice rinks, fitness centres, football, floorball, beach volleyball, squash, table tennis and aerobics facilities - for free. The tradition was launched three years ago and has proved extremely popular with the public. Last year over 15,000 people took up the offer.
A newborn baby girl who was placed in a baby box in the town of Opava on the day before Christmas is said to be well and healthy. Doctors said she bore no signs of abuse and the authorities are waiting to see if her natural parents will not make an effort to reclaim her, before offering her up for adoption. The child has been named Magdalene, after the nurse who found her. Although the institution of baby boxes remains controversial, with critics arguing they make it too easy for parents to give up their children, baby boxes in the Czech Republic have already saved 40 lives. Babies abandoned outdoors have a small chance of survival unless they are found very soon.
The Public Affairs party is proposing an amendment to the road law which would abolish signs warning drivers that a speed monitoring device in being used on a given stretch of the road. Public Affairs deputy, Stanislav Huml, who is an expert on road safety, is determined to push the amendment through Parliament, on the argument that its preventative role is extremely limited. Huml say that the 2009 amendment which introduced the warning signs is having a negative effect in that drivers often only observe speed limits along the given stretches and feel free to violate them elsewhere. The transport ministry has welcomed the proposal.
Close to two dozen people in the town of Skutec had their Christmas eve celebrations disrupted by a gas leak in one of the apartments. Three people were taken to hospital for treatment and twenty-one people were evacuated from their homes as employees of the local gas utility company took care of the problem. A faulty gas flow heater is believed to have been responsible.