Monday, April 29, 2013

News 4.29.2013

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News Monday, April 29th, 2013

By: Jan Velinger

* A strong explosion in the centre of Prague - possibly caused by a gas
leak - left 43 people injured on Monday.

* The mayor has said the building at the site of the blast is in danger
of collapsing and will need to be stabilised.

* City Hall has set up a crisis hotline - 800 100 991 - for those
requiring assistance.

* The Czech anti-monopoly agency has cancelled a multi-million tender
by the country's prison service to buy communication equipment.

* The prime minister of Slovakia has waded into a row between the Czech
president and foreign minister over who should be the next ambassador
to Bratislava.

Explosion in city centre leaves 43 people injured

A strong explosion rocked a building and surroundings in Divadelni
Street in Prague's Old Town near the Smetana embankment on Monday
morning, blowing out windows and sending debris into the streets.
Response teams including fire fighters, ambulance crews and police
arrived at the scene within minutes. The explosion, thought to have
been caused by a gas leak, injured 43 people, at least one of them
seriously. A good number were treated in hospital. Many of the injuries
were cuts from broken glass. Initially there were fears that
individuals could be buried under rubble at the site: but a search
found no one, nor is anyone unaccounted for, the city's police chief
confirmed. Both the Motol and Vojenska hospitals during the morning set
aside scheduled operations to provide additional emergency assistance,
if needed.

Mayor confirms building unsafe

In related news, Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda, visited the site of the
blast on Monday and confirmed that early analysis had shown there was a
danger the building hit by the explosion could collapse. Stress
analysis showed that one of the building's walls was pushed forward
five centimetres. Mayor Svoboda said that the construction and
engineering company Metrostav has been commissioned to brace the
building to prevent it from collapsing. Others who visited the
epicentre on Monday were Prime Minister Petr Necas and Interior
Minister Jan Kubice.

Streets closed, hotline set up

A two-kilometre stretch of the Prague embankment - from the Smetana
embankment to Palach Square - as well as Narodni trida and smaller
streets in the surrounding area, have been closed to traffic. There
were several reports over the course of Monday morning that gas could
be detected in the air, and several sources said there was a danger of
an additional explosion taking place, leading to an evacuation of
locals and bystanders.

In the afternoon, traffic on the Smetana embankment was allowed to
resume but only briefly after more gas was registered by a monitoring
vehicle. City Hall has set up a crisis hotline - 800 100 991 - for
those needing assistance and is ready to set up a shelter, if
necessary. The building in question was not residential, however,
housing mostly offices.

School halls, offices, National Theatre emptied

Students, lecturers and other staff at the FAMU film school and Charles
University's Faculty of Social Sciences, both located in the direct
vicinity of Divadleni 5 where Monday's explosion took place, were among
those evacuated from the area. According to the dean of the Faculty of
Social Sciences, Jakub Koncelik, between 300 and 400 students were
evacuated from the building. The film academy had windows broken in the
blast and was also emptied. Staff and visitors were also evacuated from
the nearby National Theatre and the Academy of Sciences. The shockwave
reached as far as the National Theatre, shattering some glass at the
theatre's Nova scena (New Stage). Students were among the first to post
photos and news of the accident on the social networks.

Prison service tender cancelled

The Czech Office for the Protection of Competition has cancelled a
25-million crown tender by the country's prison service to buy
transceivers. The anti-monopoly watchdog said the prison service failed
to specify its criteria for the winning bid which made the procurement
project non-transparent and could have affected the choice of the most
advantageous offer. The prison service picked the firm RCD
Radiokomunikace to deliver 3,000 transceivers and 250 base stations;
however, it will now have to evaluate all the bids again.

Slovak prime minister wades into ambassadorial row, backing Klausova

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has said in an interview for the
Czech news website idnes that Livia Klausova (former First Lady of the
Czech Republic) would be warmly welcomed in his country if she were
named the next Czech ambassador to Bratislava. He added his view that
whoever had put forward her name showed a "great understanding for
Czech-Slovak ties". Livia Klausova, herself Slovak by birth and the
wife of former president Vaclav Klaus, was backed for the post weeks
ago by her husband's successor, Milos Zeman. But the country's Foreign
Minister Karel Schwarzenberg came out resolutely against, saying she
lacked the necessary experience. The disagreement between Mr
Schwarzenberg and the president has since escalated in the media and
remains unresolved. A number of pundits have suggested the row has hurt
the country internationally.

High state attorney repeats charge some in anti-corruption unit tried
to discredit her

Prague High State attorney Lenka Bradacova on Monday repeated a charge
that some members of the anti-corruption police tried to gather
compromising material against her as well as to fabricate a case
against her husband to try and discredit her personally. Speaking to
journalists, the high state attorney said there had been differences
between herself and the anti-corruption unit for some time, saying that
criminal police had - for example - conducted a number of
investigations without any oversight by the state attorney's office.
Tomas Martinec, the outgoing head of the unit, has strongly denied the
accusations anyone had plotted against Ms Bradacova; he is, however,
stepping down at the end of April over the dispute.

Residents sign new leases with owner of Prednadrazi Street slum

Residents of No. 8 in Prednadrazi Street, a devastated building in
Ostrava, in the east of the country, signed new leases on Monday with
building owner Oldrich Roztocil. The owner told journalists that 11 out
of 14 apartments were taken, insisting all except one were fully
habitable. Rent, plus utilities, reportedly comes to 6,500 crowns a
month. Renters however will no longer be able to count on subsidies as
the site is no longer registered as a tenement building. The city is
insisting that a recent court decision waiving a fine for the
tenement's owner's company had nothing to with - and in no way
invalidated - existing eviction notices.

Part of stolen loot thrown in Vltava River

The police have apprehended two men who broke into a Prague jewellery
store after hours on April 9 and stole more than a million crowns worth
of gold, silver jewellery and precious gems. The spokesman for the city
police force, Tomas Hulan, confirmed on the internet that both had past
criminal records and had served time in prison, which is where the two
met. The suspects allegedly threw some of their loot in the Vltava
River; a police diving team may be dispatched to search for it; if
found guilty, each suspect could face up to eight years in prison.

Football: Cech pulls ahead of Seaman on shutouts

Petr Cech chalked up his 13th clean sheet this season at the weekend in
Chelsea's 2:0 win over Swansea. His record after nine seasons in the
English Premiership stands at 141, beating retired player David
Seaman's record to put Cech into third spot, idnes reports. Only
goalkeepers Mark Schwarzer of Fulham (148) and David James (173) have
clinched more.


The start of the week will be mostly overcast, with rain in places and
daytime highs ranging between 13 and 17 degrees Celsius.

Articles posted on today

Sports News 29.4.2013

In Sports News this Monday: Lukas Rosol wins first ATP title - Ivan
Lendl says player may have been boosted by recent Davis Cup success;
Viktoria Plzen pull two points ahead of Sparta with five rounds to go;
Czechs fail to defend Euro Hockey Tour title but are now focusing on
World Championship.

Czech-born author and publisher Marketa Goetz Stankiewicz

My guest today is Marketa Goetz Stankiewicz, a professor emerita at the
University of British Columbia. Born in 1927 in the Czech town of
Liberec, Marketa left Czechoslovakia following the communist putsch in
1948. She established herself in Canada as a professor of comparative
literature, author and essayist, focusing in particular on publishing
samizdat literature, and also writing about the work of Czech
playwrights such as Pavel Kohout, Josef Topol, Ivan Klima, and her
friend the former president Vaclav Havel.

Powerful blast in central Prague leaves dozens injured

A strong explosion rocked the centre of Prague on Monday morning,
leaving dozens of people injured. The blast, which the authorities say
may have been caused by a gas leak, severely damaged a building on the
edge of Prague's Old Town. Rescue workers are now searching the rubble
for any people who might be trapped inside.

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