Prague's flood of the century

Update to say that the events described here took place in 2002

Press F4 or SHIFT+RELOAD for latest updates

Quick note on updates
I'm sorry I haven't updated in the last two days -- I will do so as soon as I catch up with some things I was neglecting during the worst of the crisis. After that will post updates probably only once a day (instead of several times a day, as I had been doing.) So stay tuned! And apologies for the delay in the latest news.

Friday, August 16, 2330 Prague time

August 15, 2:30 pm in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

States of emergency are gradually being downgraded and/or called off in various parts of the country. The Vltava (Moldau) is down by four meters, compared with its level when the flood crested on Wednesday. Workers are beginning to dismantle the "aluminum Lego" walls which protected much of the Old Town from the worst of the flooding.

More soldiers are being mobilised to help to deal with the aftermath of the flooding, and Prague Town Hall is calling for people to donate blood in the coming days. Minister of the Interior Stanislav Gross late Friday said that everyone who participated in emergency rescue and cleanup efforts will be rewarded next week with a Heptatitis A vaccination.

Terezin; Photo from MFD archive
See more pictures from Mlada fronta

Friday, August 16, 1730 Prague time

August 15, 9:30 in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

The Chairman of the European Union, Romano Prodi, has said that the EU will help the Czech Republic with disaster relief as if they were already full EU members. He also promised aid in the amount of 2 billion Czech crowns.

The British government has promised 100 thousand pounds in aid, and the US has pledged $500,000. Additionally, the US Embassy in Prague has offered to take responsibility for the cleanup on Kampa island -- which was very hard hit by the flood.

Terezin; Photo from Radio Prague
More pictures from Radio Prague

Material aid, cleanup equipment and volunteers from many countries all over Europe have already arrived and are helping deal with the aftermath.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder has organized a meeting of leaders from countries affected by the flooding. It will likely take place on Sunday in Berlin; Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel, Czech Premier Vladimir Spidla and Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda are expected to discuss cleanup and rebuilding efforts, as well as future flood prevention. EU Chairman Roman Prodi and leaders from Poland and Hungary might also attend.

The Czech first lady, Dagmar Havlova, has opened an account for humanitarian aid for flood victims -- with an emphasis on helping those hardest hit in Prague (particularly in Karlin).

At least one more building in the flooded district of Karlin collapsed on Friday.

About 3/4 of those residents evacuated from Prague 1 will be able to return to their homes. Many (though not yet all) of the parts of the Old and New Towns, Mala Strana and The Jewish Quarter, are being reopened to the public. A small number of those evacuated from areas of Prague 6 are also being allowed to return home.

Authorities in Ceske Budejovice have restricted motor traffic in the center while cleanup efforts are underway.

Water levels in the Labe (Elbe) seem to have culminated at around 11.8 meters -- and it doesn't look now that they will reach the critical point of 12 meters. Flood levels in affected areas of the Litomerice region are beginning to fall -- with the exception of Terezin, where waters continue to rise.

Decin, too, still awaits the cresting of the Labe (Elbe), expected this evening. River levels there are at 12 meters, and are expected to rise by an additional half meter before they begin to stabilize or fall.

The Vltava (Moldau) is lower now by 3.6 meters compared with Wednesday, when it reached its highest point. The river continues to fall by about 5 centimeters each hour. The Luznice, too, has begun to fall.

Metro service on Line B between Cerny Most and Hloubetin; and between Nove Butovice and Zlicin, has been renewed.

Mlada fronta dnes is running articles on how to clean up a car, and how to clean up dwellings which have suffered from flood damage.
MFD Flood HOWTOS (in Czech)

The "aluminum Lego" which saved the Old Town are described in an article in Hospodarske noviny today; read a summary in the Radio Prague's press review for August 16 (scroll down to the paragraph beginning "Hospodarske noviny").

Online information sources
Official flood information (Czech agency for public information systems) -- in Czech
Povodne - aktualni (in Czech)
More really compelling photos (Radio Prague)

Real news coverage
Czech floods recede leaving devastation (Reuters) by way of Yahoo! News
Czech floods recede but costs rise (Reuters) by way of Yahoo! News
Same Reuters story as above, updated (Reuters) by way of Yahoo! News
Flood updates (Prague Post)
(News for August 16 (Radio Prague)
Water destroys myth of fortress-like Metro (Radio Prague)
Floods Rise in Dresden, Czechs Deal With Chemical Threat (New York Times)
Flooded Prague seeks aid to save heritage (UPI)
Economy will bounce back fast from flood knockdown (Prague Business Journal)
Wake of the Floods: primitivism and greenhouse gases Tech Central Station (Opinion)
Prague: Despair and solidarity (CNN)
Prague cleans up as threat continues (CNN)

Friday, August 16, 0800 Prague time

August 15, 11pm in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

The waters in the Vltava (Moldau) River in Prague are now receding at a rate of about five centimeters per hour. Additionally, the Labe (Elbe) seems finally to be receding also, in the town of Usti nad Labem. The river there had been expected to keep rising at least until Friday afternoon -- but it appears that the influx of water into the Ohre (and the subsequent flooding of Terezin -- see text from 0600 Prague time on Friday, below) have enabled Labe water levels to go down earlier than had been expected.

Water levels are also falling in the Sazava and Berounka rivers, and are stable in the Luznice.
Update 08/16/02 1000 Prague time
Water in the Luznice is actually rising

The Vltava (Moldau) around Melnik -- which region was flooded on Thursday -- has also receded.

The weather forecast for the Czech Republic today is for scattered showers and occasional thunderstorms.

Friday, August 16, 07:21 Prague time

August 15, 10:30pm in California
Source: Los Angeles channel 11 Fox News

Sean Connery, in Prague working on a film, is among those affected by the flooding. The well-known actor held a press conference in Prague to help raise world awareness about the devastation of the flooding in the Czech Republic.
Some details on what he was filming, and his impressions of Prague in in this June 28th interview with Sean Connery from Radio Prague.
Update 08/17/02 Prague date+time
CNN now has coverage of this story: Connery shock at scale of disaster

Friday, August 16, 0600 Prague time

August 15, 9pm in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

The Vltava (Moldau) River at Prague is now receding at a rate of about 7 centimeters per hour -- at 3am Prague time, it was measured at 484 centimeters at Mala Chuchle (the normal depth there is 74 centimeters).

Although water levels in the river are dropping quickly, it will take longer for levels in flooded areas of the city to fall -- due at least in part to the city's sewers -- which would of course normally carry excess water away -- being blocked in many areas.

Metro Line B failed to resume operations between Nove Butovice and Zlicin on Friday morning. That portion of the Metro went offline at about 10:30 Thursday night due to electrical problems.

Cleanup is underway. Pictured here: Smichov
Photo from CTK by way of Mlada fronta dnes
See more pictures from Mlada fronta

Flood waters from the Labe (Elbe) River reached the main square at Terezin, by way of the Ohre, one of the river's tributaries.
Update 08/16/02 0600 am Prague date+time
It appears that the levees -- which had been dug out by bulldozer only shortly before -- were washed away; and that the whole town is flooded. "Never in its history has Terezin seen such a flood," said the town's mayor, Ruzena Cechova. The town has no running water (well, from taps) and telephone land lines are not working. The town's famous fortifications seem to be actually keeping flood waters -- which would otherwise have already receded considerably -- inside the town. Electrical power to the town has been turned off, preventatively, since Thursday. The nearby villages of Ceske Kopiste and Pocaply are also flooded.

Waters are still rising in Usti nad Labem, and at around 4 am on Friday had reached some of the buildings in the Spolchemie complex -- one of a great many chemical works located in the town. The waters are expected to crest at Usti on 5:00 pm on Saturday. At around 2 am on Friday morning, the waters there measured a depth of 11.3 meters. Authorities said that, should the river reach a depth of 12 meters, the town would be completely without natural gas, electrical, or telephone services.
Update 08/16/02 0700 am Prague date+time
The Usti nad Labem Web site reports that the river reached a depth of 11.63 meters at six o'clock Friday morning. The river is (now?) expected to crest at Usti on Friday afternoon.
Update 08/16/02 0800 am Prague date+time
It appears now that the influx of water into the Ohre has allowed the Labe to go down by so much, that it has prevented these worst-case scenarios from befalling Usti.

Evacuees from Argentinska, Plynarni and Jatecni streets in Prague's Holesovice district will be able to return to their homes on Friday. Other areas of Holesovice remain closed to the public, as is Stromovka park. Authorities are warning that Stromovka may remain closed for some time, due to the dangers posed from mature trees toppling over from just too much water in the soil. Residents are urged to avoid the area.

Friday, August 16, 02:11 Prague time

August 15, 5:11pm in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

Prague's Old Town is dark again tonight, as electrical power has not yet been restored in that area.

It is expected that residents of evacuated areas in Prague 1 and Prague 7 will be able to visit their homes to assess the damage -- probably during Friday.

Measurements at Chuchle station in Prague are reporting water levels for the Vltava in that city as 507 centimeters (compared to 534 at 7pm Thursday; and 785 when the river crested on Wednesday).

Thursday, August 15, 2340 Prague time

August 15, 2:40pm in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

Water levels continue to drop in Prague at a rate of about ten centimeters per hour. At 7 pm on Thursday, the level of the Vltava (Moldau) River was measured at 534 centimeters -- that's 251 less than it had been when it crested at about 2pm on Wednesday.

Waters in Usti nad Labem and Decin -- both on the Labe (or Elbe) -- continue to rise. In Usti, the river is expected to crest at 5:00 pm on Saturday (Prague time).

On Thursday, a wave of flood water swept through the totally unprepared village of Zalezlice in Melnik. The water reportedly damaged 90 of the burg's 120 houses; 30 collapsed -- amazingly, no injuries were reported. "Nobody warned us!" said village mayor, Josef Sulc, speaking with Mlada fronta dnes. Considering that the town is in a low-lying region lying more or less right about exactly at the place where the Vltava (Moldau) meets the Labe (Elbe), it is speculated that the town is a very strong contender to win the Velvary Prize for "Village most likely to send hard-boiled eggs to repair the bridge at Pisek."

Zaleslice; Photo from Radio Prague
More pictures from Radio Prague

The bridge at Pisek -- an elder brother to Prague's Charles Bridge -- is in bad shape. The centuries-old structure has lost its railing and perhaps one statue (and some other masonry) to flood waters. Damage estimates for this one bridge alone are currently estimated at 8 million Czech crowns.

Damage estimates for the total cost of all damages and cleanup are coming in currently at $2 billion dollars (that's an American billion, with nine zeroes -- not the other kind) -- this according to the London-based Economic Intelligence Unit.
Update 08/15/02 Source: Radio Prague
Official damage estimates from the Czech government are expected to be calculated and announced only after the state of emergency is lifted.

Real news coverage
Could the floods have been prevented? (Radio Prague)
Huge cost of Czech floods (CNN)
Flood-stricken Czechs plan mass-vaccination (New Scientist)
Europe rushes to Prague's aid (News24)
Dresden evacuated as waters rise (CNN)
News for August 14 (Radio Prague)
Prague Floodwaters Drain Into Elbe (New York Times)

Thursday, August 15, 2130 Prague time

August 15, 12:30pm in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

Many areas of Prague's Old Town are suffering serious damage. Hastalske namesti was closed after a sewer there (burst?). Some sidewalks are buckling (in Maiselova and Hastalska, perhaps elsewhere also). The culprit appears to be groundwater from the flooding; which has also seeped into innumberable basements in the Old Town, and many, many other areas in Prague. Earlier in the day, a building in Karlin collapsed (see report from 6:30 pm Prague time, below) and it is feared that others in the flooded quarter of Karlin may follow.

Update 08/16/02 0100 pm Prague date+time
Apparently, a second building also collapsed in Karlin -- but I haven't yet found any details. Updates when I do.
Update 08/16/02
It seems that police and firefighters who went to investigate the building's collapse were very surprised to find that a number of area residents were still in their apartments, having refused to follow the orders to evacuate their neighborhood.

The former Number 34 Krizikova in Karlin
Photo from MFD archive
See more pictures from Mlada fronta

Some residents are attempting to return to their homes in Karlin and Liben, only to be re-evacuated by authorities.

Some electricity has been restored to parts of Prague which were without it yesterday, particularly those transformers which were switched off preventatively. Restoring electricity to areas where flooding actually occured is proving more difficult than had been expected. More residents in northern Bohemia are without power today, as well.

There is more news about one of the lost seals from Prague zoo, but I'm not covering seals anymore (see the report from 1900 Prague time on Wednesday to learn why).

Archival documents are feared lost to flood damage from libraries and archives at the following agencies:

Of these, it is our feeling that the Academy of Sciences and the ARMY -- at the very least -- really should have known better.

Update 08/16/02
Add to this list now also

Update 08/17/02

Thursday, August 15, 1830 Prague time

August 15, 9:30am in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

A building collapsed around noon on Thursday in the flooded Prague district of Karlin. Number 34 Krizikova street was a condemned building that was scheduled for demolition, but authorities are worried that other buildings in the district may also have suffered serious structural damage, and may be prone to collapse (particularly Krizikova 110).
Update 08/15/02 2230 pm Prague date+time
A reader of Mlada fronta dnes informed the newspaper that she is a resident of the collapsed building and that, contrary to reports, the building was very much occupied and most definitely neither abandoned nor condemned.

In other Prague neighborhoods, the threat of structural damage to buildings in areas affected by the flood are also feared. Residents in the Old Town with flooded basements are being warned not to pump out flood waters until after the buildings can be inspected for damage; residents in buildings on or close to the Smichov embankment probably won't be allowed to move back home until after inspections can take place. In some other areas of Smichov, cleanup is already well underway.

President Vaclav Havel today visited evacuees at a shelter in Prague 7. The President's spokesman, Ladislav Spacek, said the President does not expect to visit any more evacuated flood victims.

The situation in Prague's flooded Metro stations is pretty bad. It seems that some of the pressure seals in some tunnels are leaking or even giving way. Reconstruction is expected to take up to several months, and cost estimates currently range at around 2 billion (2,000,000,000) Czech crowns.
Update 08/15/02 2230 pm Prague date+time
Metro Line B stopped service from Zlicin to Nove Butovice around 10:30 pm on Thursday. The route is expected to be in operation by Friday morning.

On a happier note, the famous Pilsner brewerey in Pilsen expects to resume production of its famous brew on Friday; the Budvar brewerey at Ceske Budejovice resumed production on Thursday afternoon at 4 o'clock.

Scattered showers are predicted for the Czech Republic through Saturday.

The Minister of Education is considering postponing the first day of school -- traditionally in the Czech Republic, school starts on September 1 (this year it would fall on September 2, as the first is a Sunday).

In Prague, the districts of Invalidovna, Holesovice, Karlin -- as well as parts of Pankrac -- are without hot water. Authorities say that hot water might be restored to affected areas some three weeks after cleanup efforts begin.

Thursday, August 15, 1100 Prague time

August 15, 2am in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

Two barges fully loaded with gravel or rocks of some sort (or something along those lines) came loose from their moorings upstream of the town of Decin on Thursday morning at around 10:00 am Prague time. Authorities were able to catch and anchor one of them; however the second made its way to Decin and is being buffeted by the current against the town's New bridge (or new bridge, not sure if that's its proper name...) Special police units (URNA) are attempting to liquidate the barge before it manages to liquidate the bridge.
Update 08/15/02 1220 pm Prague date+time
Police units were successful -- they were able to sink the barge.
Update 08/15/02 17:45 pm Prague date+time
In a similar vein -- of a bad situation which could have been much worse -- chlorine gas leaked from tanks at a chemicals facility in Neratovice. Authorities say that the amount of gas which leaked was well under truly dangerous levels; and that affected residents might suffer from symptoms of sore throat due to the exposure.

Thursday, August 15, 0930 Prague time

August 14, 10:30pm in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

More residents are being evacuated in and around Melnik, where the Labe (Elbe) River is still rising.

In Prague, meanwhile, water levels dropped consistently throughout the night -- by Thursday morning, they were more than one meter below where they had been the night before. But residents won't be able to return to their homes -- city authorities need to keep affected districts clear while the work of cleanup and building inspections -- including inspections of natural gas lines, electrical connections, sewage, and other infrastructural assessment -- are carried out. Reports are not yet saying how long that is expected to take.

As of 9:30am Prague time, six bridges were open to varying amounts of traffic: Zavodu miru bridge in Zbraslav, Barrandov Bridge, and Hlavkuv bridge are open to automobile traffic; Palacke, Legie and Stefanikuv bridges are open only to pedestrians and to public transportation vehicles.

Prague Castle; Photo from Prague TV
More pictures from Prague TV

Public transport in Prague is functional, about to the same extent that it has been over the last few days.
Update 08/15/02 1100 am Prague date+time
Traffic is bad around Prague; there's a three-kilometer backup at Barrandov Bridge (not sure which side) and electrical outages have stopped (some? all?) trams.

Czech Railways passenger trains are providing supplemental public transport routes between some train stations in Prague; also between different train stations in other Czech cities (Usti nad Labem, Decin, Pilsen).

Water levels in all south Bohemian rivers are dropping -- with the exception of the Luznice (particularly between Veseli nad Luznici and Tabor). Water levels in Cesky Krumlov are now two meters lower than they were when the flood waters there reached their highest point, two days ago. The water in Krumlov is still five meters higher than normal, though -- and the center of the historic town is still submerged.

Thursday, August 15, 0630 Prague time

August 14, 9:30pm in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

Water levels in Prague have been receding since about 3am, Prague time -- but the rate at which levels are dropping is expected to slow during the course of Thursday morning.

Prague residents who have been evacuated from the center are being asked to not yet return to their homes. According to city hall spokesman Martin Kupka, the water is receding too slowly for residents to be able to return just yet; there are also worries that returning evacuees might get in the way of emergency workers who will be working to clear flotsam, rubble, and damage in coming days.

Charles Bridge late Wednesday; Photo from Prague TV
More pictures from Prague TV

Thursday, August 15, 0530 Prague time

August 14, 8:30pm in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

President Vaclav Havel plans to visit evacuation centers on Thursday and Friday, to meet with flood victims.

The Prague Metro will follow the same restricted routes as it did on Wednesday (for routes see text from 0730 Prague time on Wednesday, below). A number of the city's tram routes are functional, but the majority of them have at least one detour from their normal routes.

Employees of Prague's natural gas company have emptied pipes in the town's historic center of gas -- just in case. Several gas mains run through some of Prague's bridges, so the decision to release the gas was taken as a precautionary measure.

Thursday, August 15, 02:48 Prague time

August 14, 5:48pm in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

The waters in Prague should begin to recede soon. Workers at the Slapy dam just outside of Prague say that they will soon be able to stop releasing so much water (300 cubic meters a second) into the Vltava (Moldau) -- they hope that this may cause the water level to drop by as much as half a meter by morning.

Water levels are already falling near Palmovka in Prague 8.

Levels will rise, however, in Decin -- the Labe (Elbe) River's "last major stop" in the Czech Republic, before it flows into Germany. The river is expected to crest in Decin sometime Saturday (?) morning. The depth of the river in Decin is expected to reach 11 meters by Friday (?) morning -- under normal circumstances, the depth there is usually measured at 2 meters.

Levels in other rivers around the country are also falling -- not by enough to call off or lower the level of the state of emergency, but certainly to the relief of all concerned. Some of the country's border crossings which had been closed have reopened to traffic.

Online information sources
List of online news sources (Prague TV)
List of streets affected by flooding (Prague TV)
Map of flooding in Prague (The Guardian Unlimited)
Brief description of the flood of 1890 (Radio Prague)
Prague Business Journal
CTK news in English (Czech Happenings)

Real news coverage
Czechs flee Prague (USA Today)
Extreme weather set to worsen (The Guardian Unlimited)
200,000 Czechs flee flood-hit homes (The Guardian Unlimited)

Photo collections
Photos from Mlada fronta dnes
Pictures from Radio Prague
"War zone" gallery from Radio Prague
Photos from the BBC
Photo essay from The Prague Post
Prague TV has photos up in their gallery
A page of photos I 'collected' from among the above sources

Wednesday, August 14, 23:30 Prague time

August 14, 2:30pm in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

More power has been returned to Ceske Budejovice now; and waters in Prague are beginning to recede. The situation in Usti nad Labem on the Elbe River also seems to have stabilized.

The weather forecast for Thursday predicts light rain for much of the Czech Republic -- but mostly in areas where it won't exacerbate flooding.

Wednesday, August 14, 2100 Prague time

August 14, 12:00pm in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

"I came as soon as I could," President Vaclav Havel said at a press conference in Prague on Wednesday. The president met with Czech Premier Vaclav Spidla; earlier he surveyed the damage and met with rescue workers. The President praised the actions of the Czech Premier and Czech government in fighting the flood; and called on insurance companies in the Czech Republic to do the right thing by flood victims.

The town of Usti, on the Elbe River, is in bad shape. This bodes ill for Germany, already under seige by its portion of the Elbe -- which is downstream from Usti. Area residents are without hot water, as the Usti heating plant had to go offline.

In Prague, "parts" of Mala Strana (The Lesser Town) are flooded. Hardest hit in Prague are Holesovice, Troja, Karlin, and Liben. The water currently in Prague seems to be neither rising nor receding -- it's just sitting there. Prague's interim mayor, Igor Nemec, warned that the situation is still quite dire. He said that people might be able to return to their homes only after the waters have receded and electrical power had been restored, and sewer systems inspected.

Once the levels do begin to fall, the water is expected to recede most quickly from Smichov, Kampa, Liben and Troja. Stromovka will resurface more slowly, according to Mayor Nemec -- but Karlin is expected to be under water for some time. It might take a week or even weeks for the waters in Karlin to recede.

Klarov - one "part" of Lesser Town that definitely is flooded. Photo from Radio Prague
More pictures from Radio Prague

The economic toll from the disaster promises to be devastating to the Czech Republic. Estimates on damages are currently in the "tens of billions" of crowns (that would be an American billion -- a one with nine zeroes). The Czech budget was already running at a deficit; and with the flood damage, tourism -- one of the country's major sources of income -- will be hard hit.
The BBC has a report on the economic toll: Czechs count the cost of floods

Wednesday, August 14, 1930 Prague time

August 14, 10:30am in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

President Vaclav Havel said he is "devastated" (the word he used was 'zdrcen') by the flood damage, according to his spokesman. The President cut short a holiday in Portugal to return to the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Upon his return, he spoke with rescue workers, and surveyed the damage along the embankment and from Charles Bridge.

What the President saw; Photo from MFD archive
See more pictures from Mlada fronta

To make a donation
Contact the Czech embassy or consulate in your area. The bank account information for donations is reported by Mlada fronta dnes as: acct # 9025-001/0710, SWIFT CODE: CNBACZPP. This account appears to be for the government itself; the monies wouldn't go through any relief agencies to get there. But going through an embassy or consulate is still probably a better idea.

Real news coverage
Critical hours for inundated Prague BBC
Prague faces 'worst moment (CNN)
Flood waters surround historic Prague (Yahoo! News)
Prague Fights To Clear River's Path (The Guardian Unlimited
Floods breach Prague defences Reuters -- by way of The New Zealand Herald)
News for August 14 (Radio Prague)

The Senate buildings in Valdstejnsky (Wallenstein) Palace in Mala Strana (Lesser Town) are well sandbagged. Although they are slightly threatened by the flood waters (and parts of the gardens are flooded) the buildings seem to be out of danger.

The water in Smichov came to within about 150 or 200 meters of Andel Metro station, but the force of the water flowing there was slight, and easily stopped by sandbags.

Ujezd in Prague 5 - Smichov; Photo from MFD archive
See more pictures from Mlada fronta

Some hospitals are short of blood, and emergency supplies are being distributed as quickly as they are gathered. Residents are being warned to be extra vigilant with food preparation, as the flood waters and general dampness pose an increased risk from bacterial pathogens.

Damage to the Prague Metro system is estimated at 500 million crowns, and it may take up to several weeks to restore service. 49,500 Telecom customers are without service -- mostly in Prague and central Bohemia.

The water in Usti nad Labem (on the Elbe River) has reached a height of 12.5 meters. In other places -- Prague, Beroun -- it is already receding. Slowly.

Wednesday, August 14, 1900 Prague time

August 14, 10am in California
Source: Phone conversation with friends who have been watching Czech TV

Apparently, the water has crested (at around 2:30 in the afternoon, Prague time), and it is hoped now that it will only recede from here on in. On the left bank (the Castle side of the river), parts of Smichov near the embankment are under water; Kampa is submerged and the water reaches from there all the way to Klarov (around Malostranska Metro station; also where the "mouse hole" is).

On the other side of the river, the barriers seem to have held up! They were really, really close to letting the water through, apparently, but they didn't. So the Old Town Square, the Jewish Quarter, the Old Jewish Cemetery -- are all OK. Petrske namesti and its environs have been hard hit, though -- several meters of water are standing in that area. Karlin reportedly looks like Venice, Italy.

Karlin -- still looks Czech to me...
Photo from MFD archive
See more pictures from Mlada fronta

The National Theater does have some flood damage, apparently from water that seeped into the basement, perhaps from the sewer system. Charles Bridge seems to be holding up OK, but one of the other bridges in Prague, Most Legie, has sustained structural damage.
This reported damage to Legie bridge has not been confirmed by any of the other reports I've seen.

There is so much water in the soil that mature trees are falling down, literally all over the place -- and it is keeping emergency workers busy to fish them out of the river. Thirteen Metro stations are flooded.

Florence Metro station; Photo from MFD archive
See more pictures from Mlada fronta

Two bridges are still open to traffic: Barrandov and Hlavkuv bridges; Stefanikuv bridge is open to tram traffic. Electricity is being restored where possible. It's being reported that, all told, 200,000 people were evacuated from Prague, and 1,000,000 people were evacuated from their homes across the country (the country has a population of about 10 million).
Other news sources are reporting 200,000 evacuees nationwide with only 50,000 in Prague.

During the evacuation of the Prague zoo, four seals managed to escape into the river. Citizens are instructed to keep an eye out for the renegade seals and, if they spot them -- not to approach them, but to alert zoo authorities.
Update 08/14/02 1630 am Prague date+time
Mlada fronta dnes reports only on the escape of one seal; who was later spotted near Podbaby in Prague 6.
Update 08/14/02 1942 am Prague date+time
So there were four seals after all: three females and one male. Two -- the male and one female -- hung around the zoo, and were quickly collected by zoo attendants. One female ended up in the town of Kralup nad Vltavou -- where the waters are still quite rough, and are impeding zoo workers from being able to rescue her. The fourth seal's whereabouts are unknown. Zoo employees are quite worried about the seals -- who are not used to swimming in water with such a strong current.
Update 08/15/02
Every story I have read about the seals gives conflicting information: in one story, they got the one which was spotted at Kralupy, but the other three are missing -- meanwhile an email from Prague reports that two are found, and two missing.
More zoo news from -- this one doesn't even mention the seals... I give up on covering seals from now on: Floods Take Toll on Prague Zoo

Nationwide, virtually every city and town that lies on the Vltava (Moldau) River has been affected. In Pisek, that town's historical bridge -- an elder brother to Prague's Charles Bridge -- has sustained some damage. Although it is still standing and its statuary is more or less intact, the damage is supposed to be pretty serious.

Ceske Budejovice and Cesky Krumlov continue to be the hardest hit of all affected areas.
Update 08/14/02 1556 Prague date+time
Add to that list, now, also the town of Decin -- apparently very hard hit. And in Strakonice, flood waters have reportedly mixed with oil and/or petroleum.

It is hoped that the water will recede in 3-7 days.

Here's an interesting note: I asked why did the dams get so full? I was always told such flooding could never happen in Prague nowadays, because of the system of dams. So what broke down? Why didn't they let the water out earlier and more often? My "source" in Prague said he'd seen an interview on Czech TV with some hydroelectric engineer where the reporter posed this same question. Apparently, it's a very fine balance between "enough" water to run the electrical plants and "too much" water. They didn't release the water earlier and more often, to ensure they would have enough to fuel the generators.
The BBC discusses many aspects of how it might have happened that the flooding came to be so horrible in the story, Austrian Anger

Wednesday, August 14, 1100 Prague time

August 14, 2am in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

The rising water has reached the walls of Staropramen brewery in Prague's Smichov district, the flooding of Prague is expected now to culminate in the evening hours, rather than the early afternoon, as was previously predicted. Three of Prague's bridges are still open to trams: Stefanikuv, Legie and Palacke bridges.

Real news coverage
Prague battles flood waters BBC News
Prague's golden spires (BBC News backgrounder)
News for August 13 (Radio Prague)
CTK news in English (Czech Happenings)
New Evacuations in Prague (Reuters)
Prague fights to clear river's path
(Associated Press)
Tens of Thousands flee as Prague floods (New York Times)
Parts of historic Prague under water (San Jose Mercury News)
Prague citizens evacuate (eTaiwan News)
Central Europe Floods Threaten Historic Prague ABC News)
Flood havoc continues on two continents (Straits Times)
...Floods not likely (Radio Prague, July 17th report)

Wednesday, August 14, 0930 Prague time

August 14, 12:30am in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

Water is seeping through the sandbags at the National Theater, and continues to rise. Barriers of sandbags protecting the Old Town are getting close to reaching the limit of their effectiveness; were they to be swept away, it is estimated that the rising waters would reach the Jan Hus (John Huss) statue in Prague's Old Town Square; and that standing water in (for instance) Anenske namesti would reach 4 meters.

The water already is at 4 meters on Prague's Kampa island, and Smichov embankment around the iron Railway bridge is under water. Waves of water have also swept as far in as Florence in the New Town.

The back of the National Theater
Photo from The Prague Post
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The rising water is still expected to reach its greatest height sometime Wednesday afternoon, Prague time. At 5am in Prague on Wednesday, engineers measured the depth of the Vltava (Moldau) river at Praha-Chuchle at 752 centimeters. Under normal conditions, the sounding at that point should be between 50-100 centimeters.

Barrandov bridge in Prague is still open to automobile traffic. Czech Rail passenger trains are providing some much-needed public transportation in Prague, Pisek, Ceske Budejovice and Pilsen -- cities where regular public transportation is either greatly curtailed or, in some cases, even stopped.

Wednesday, August 14, 0730 Prague time

August 13, 10:30pm in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

Many of the residents of Prague's Old Town are ignoring calls to evacuate, despite that officials fear that -- in a worst-case scenario -- there would be catastrophic consequences should a series of the country's dams burst, provoking a chain reaction. The order to evacuate came at around 4 in the morning, Prague time, accompanied by the sound of civil defense sirens wailing throughout the quarter. Mlada fronta dnes reports that thus far, foreign tourists seem to be the only ones in the city's heart which are taking the evacuation order seriously, and that a few of them are 'running about the city center, confused, luggages in hand.'

The police are attempting to convince Old Town residents to heed the evacuation order.

Znojmo dam; Photo from MFD archive
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Prague, Photo from MFD archive
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Authorities are now saying that it is unlikely that flood waters will go any higher than Wenceslas Square. (Yesterday they didn't think it would go as far as Old Town Square!)

Early Wednesday morning Prague time, the Metro was running -- but with very restricted routes, basically avoiding most stops in the center. Metro line B is running only between Nove Butovice and Zlicin; Metro line A is running only between Skalka and namesti Miru, and Metro line C is running only between Prazskeho povstani and Haje. And a few trains will apparently run back and forth between Muzeum and namesti Miru. Strahov tunnel is closed, as well, and tram and bus routes are greatly restricted.

On a happier note, flood waters in Pilsen appear to be slowly receding, and the forecast for the next 24 hours -- while it does consist of rain -- predicts mostly light rain for much of the Czech Republic, particularly for those regions hardest hit by the flooding. Quite heavy rain is, however, forecast for parts of Moravia.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002 0500 Prague time

August 13, 8pm in California
Source: Mlada fronta dnes (MFD)

The water in Prague continues to rise, several thousand more people are being evacuated from the districts of Josefov (the Jewish Town), from Old Town, and from Holesovice. Water is being carried by the city's Vltava (Moldau) River at a rate of 5000 cubic meters per second and is continuing to rise -- although more slowly now than earlier. The flood of water is expected to culminate somewhere between noon and 3pm (Prague time) on Wednesday.

On Tuesday in Prague, residents of Kampa, Karlin, Smichov, Liben, and other low-lying areas of the city were evacuated from their homes -- but at that time, it was expected that the Old Town and the Jewish Town were under no threat from the rising waters.

All of Prague's islands, including Kampa, Strelecky ostrov, and Zofin, are under water. Part of MANES gallery is as well, as are parts of Novotneho lavka and Sovovy mlyny. Historical riverside buildings including the National Theater and the Rudolfinum are threatened by the rising waters, and employees evacuated a large number of animals from Prague zoo, which lies in Troja -- a district on an outlying edge of the city's center, and one which is now completely cut off from the rest of the town by flood waters.

Lavka; Photo from MFD archive
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The Old Town of Prague -- as well as other city districts and a large number of cities and towns throughout the Czech Republic -- have lost electrical power, and many have, as a result, lost telephone connectivity. Authorities say it's extremely unlikely that electrical power in affected areas will be restored until about two days after flood waters recede -- altogether, residents affected by the outages could be without power for as many as 9 or 10 days.
Update 08/14/02 0920 am Prague date+time
Jihoceska energetika is working to restore power -- already in some sites in and around Ceske Budejovice.

Some sites have lost Internet connectivity as well (Mlada fronta dnes newspaper, the source for the information in this summary, is up on an emergency server), and the natural gas supply has also been shut off in the town of Ceske Budejovice (and in a few other places). Luckily, the mobile phone system seems to be holding up OK.

The main water treatment plant for Prague, in the city's Bubenec district, has been overwhelmed by the flood waters, putting the city's water supply in danger.
Update 08/14/02 0920 am Prague date+time
It goes without saying that sewer water from those areas affected by flooding is also mixing with flood waters, posing a further health threat.

Public transport is still working in Prague, albeit along unfamiliar routes, as a great many streets (especially near the river) and a number of bridges are closed to transportation. Trams were still running in Prague just after midnight on Tuesday (Prague time) across Palackeho and Legie bridges, and cars were still being allowed to cross the river at Barrandov bridge. Public transportation has ceased in some cities in the Czech Republic, notably in Pilsen (beer brewing was halted at that city's famous brewery as well, as it was also in Prague's Smichov and Holesovice breweries). City authorities in Pilsen say they hope to have some public transport in place again as soon as Thursday.

Prague's bridges, Photo from MFD archive
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Text is Copyright 2002 JS Kelly (
under the GNU Free Documentation License. Copying, printing, linking. mirroring and sharing this document are allowed without restriction, provided this copyright notice remains intact.
Photos are not covered by this copyright notice: photo credits appear separately under each photo, and are the property of their respective copyright holders.

JS Kelly lived in Prague from 1990-1998; doesn't anymore.

The Czech term for a massive flood (or flood of the century) is 'stoleta voda.' One Czech town's mayor described the current situation in the country as, instead, the 'flood of the millenium' -- others have likened the situation on the ground to a war zone.

As I know that there are a lot more people who love the Czech Republic and Prague than speak its language, I thought I would summarize, in English, some of the Czech news stories that are coming from that country. You might also want to check out this list of links to English-language stories about the Czech floods from the Prague Post -- which paper also reports that there is a hotline for English-speaking tourists in the city. That number is (from the US) 011-4202-3600 3366; in Prague just 3600 3366.

[NOTICE OF REVISION: email address redacted on July fifth 2023 to cut down on spam]