Press Conferences

25. 6. 2009 11:20

Extraordinary Press Conference after the Meeting of the Czech National Security Council, Held on Thursday 25th June 2009

Roman Prorok, spokesman of the Government of the Czech Republic: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to welcome you at this extraordinary press conference held after several special measures taken by Jan Fischer´s cabinet. As you probably know, the Czech National Security Council met at 11:00 a.m. to discuss the situation in North Moravia and the Moravian-Silesian Region, and - due to many good reasons - the session of the National Security Council was immediately followed by an extraordinary Government meeting convened by Prime Minister Jan Fischer. I would like to give him the floor now.

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Ladies sand gentlemen, first of all - speaking on behalf of the Government and on my own behalf - allow me to offer my deep condolences over the deaths of all the people who perished in this tragic event in the flood-afflicted areas. Now to the business in hand. The Government and the individual Government Ministers have been monitoring the situation since its onset. In the early hours this morning, I had a short meeting with the Interior Minister and the Minister of Agriculture, and I got in touch with the Regional Commissioner of the Moravian-Silesian Region and head of the local Fire Rescue Corps. Acting on the strength of the information we had received in the morning I convened a National Security Council session at 11:00 a.m. to be followed by an extraordinary Government meeting. I won’t describe here all the details of the situation as it looks now, I´ll just focus on selected items since I have also been receiving your news reports since the morning, and you have been reporting on all the developments very well and intensely. I won’t repeat what you have been telling the Czech public for several hours now, that’s not the main thing. Just to recapitulate, at 3:30 a.m. this morning the Regional Commissioner of the Moravian-Silesian Region declared a state of danger in response to the current developments. This measure will last until midnight of July 24 of this year. For the time being we have reports, confirmed reports, of 9 victims. Of these five people drowned, four died because they had not received prompt medical care, but the number of casualties may still be higher because some people are reported missing. At present, our rivers and streams are at the level of a 50-year high water in some places, and at the level of a 100-year high water in other localities. The downpour was extraordinarily rapid, concentrated into a very short period of time, but the overall situation concerning the water levels in our rivers is being stabilized. The situation is under control thanks to the regional and local authorities, all their structural components are meeting, crisis-management teams, flood-control committees. I can assure you that the situation is really under control. 120 people have been evacuated, and conditions for their survival have been created, they have been given makeshift accommodation and means to ensure elementary care for their existence. We have been thoroughly dealing with this humanitarian situation. In all the localities suffering from drinking water shortages alternative sources of drinking water have been provided. Half of the town of Nový Jièín is experiencing problems with electricity supplies, but it’s not only the town of Nový Jièín itself but its environs as well. The latest information I have is that diesel-units have started operation, that means that the problems involving electricity supplies are being gradually sorted out as well. There are major problems in the transport infrastructure, on local railway lines, but also on the corridor route linking Ostrava, problems that are being solved by a makeshift bus service in this particular railway corridor, while intense reconstruction work is under way. As for the rest, the overall picture is as follows: rescue operations were finished in the morning, work is in full swing on removing flood damage, rehabilitating the affected areas. Acting at the request of the Regional Commissioner to call in Army troops to help in liquidation and reconstruction work, since the local facilities cannot cope, I convened an extraordinary Government meeting because in such cases it is necessary to issue a Government Resolution, and this is what happened. We are prepared to deploy troops of the Army of the Czech Republic, and we are releasing up to 1,000 men. That was the key purpose of today’s Government meeting, furthermore we have passed a resolution saying that pursuant to the relevant legislation the Government is prepared to earmark necessary funds, i.e. 54 million CZK, to tackle the most urgent problems in removing damage and helping the afflicted population. That is the second item of this resolution passed at today’s Government session. Financial resources plus a Government Regulation providing for the deployment of Czech Army troops, a move that can be taken solely by the Government. We have reviewed the situation and concluded that the Regional Commissioner’s request for help should be complied with. I have been in contact with the Regional Commissioner, on-the-spot negotiations are now under way. We will exchange latest information, that is to say the Government is closely monitoring the situation in the affected areas, and we have also discussed weather forecast for the next few days. There is no acute danger in the region, the only risk is posed by eventual downpours but nothing of that kind has been reported so far. Nevertheless, it is possible that before the coming weekend storms may be expected in some areas that could bring torrential rains of this type, but all the authorities and crisis-management teams in all parts of the country have now been activated. The country’s Integrated Rescue System has also been activated, its components are ready to take vital measures. That’s all from me. Thank you for your attention.

Roman Prorok, spokesman of the Government of the Czech Republic: Is there anything the Interior Minister or Defence Minister would like to add?

Martin Barták, Deputy Premier and Defence Minister: I think this was an exhaustive report. We are planning to deploy 1,000 men and an adequate number of machinery and equipment at the request of the individual Regional Commissioners or following a decision of the Interior or Defence Minister. This would involve engineering equipment, engineering brigades or deployment of our own rescue units.

Roman Prorok, spokesman of the Government of the Czech Republic: Thank you, now there is time for your questions.

Czech Television: Is any member of the Government planning to visit the flooded areas? Have you checked whether some of the security precautions have not been underestimated before these floods? Such as evacuation procedures and the like. Thank you.

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: As far as the actual procedures are concerned, I´ll leave my final decision after speaking with the Regional Commissioner to find out on-site situation. I´ll decide accordingly.

Martin Pecina, Interior Minister: I would like to add a few words in reply to the question whether security precautions have not been underestimated. At this moment, there are no signs of that. The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute had warned of the danger of torrential rains but such rains cannot be accurately identified and pinpointed in the territory. The Fire Rescue System had this kind of information and passed it on to all the mayors in the localities threatened with such a danger, but we have to realize that this was a truly exceptional situation. The rains that came down in the worst afflicted areas caused the floods, which proved to be two metres above the 100-year high-water level. This was a truly exceptional situation, lasting for a very short time but being so intense that at the given moment in time there were no indications to show that the overall situation could have been underestimated. On the contrary, the crisis has been managed very promptly indeed, in cooperation with the Integrated Rescue System, local crisis-management commissions and mayors. The situation was under control by midnight, and all the people who needed help were receiving assistance. But in an emergency like this, it is really impossible to design and prepare the system to prevent such a disaster. As I have said, the follow-up measures have worked very well. We do not think there was any underestimation.

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I may add, and I have already stressed the point, that we are interested in the situation of those people who live in the worst hit areas and who are affected as well as in preventive measures taken in advance. I think that it would be proper for the Health Minister to tell you how her Ministry perceives the situation.

Dana Jurásková, Health Minister: It is appropriate to say here that in all the flood-hit areas the regional hygienic stations, which are part of the flood-control commissions, have been activated. They are keeping under their control sources of drinking water, this applies to areas where the operation of water mains was disrupted and where water sources were contaminated. Appropriate measures are being taken in an effort to keep the local population supplied with makeshift sources of drinking water. Another task facing the regional hygienic stations is to keep the local inhabitants well informed on how to go about removing flood damage, that is to say how to prevent spread of other infectious diseases, eventually other complications connected with this emergency situation, and in this respect the regional hygienic stations have started reviewing their own supplies of vaccines, especially against hepatitis A, a major threat in such cases.

Roman Prorok, spokesman of the Government of the Czech Republic: Thanks to Health Minister, any more questions? The Czech Press Agency.

CTK: I wanted to ask how did you get the sum of 54 million CZK? Is this based on the request of the Regional Commissioner, is it a final figure?

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: These are funds earmarked for these purposes from the budget.

Radiožurnál: An additional question about the funds: how is the money going to be distributed? Is it going to the town of Nový Jièín or the municipalities that will be distributing the funds? During the past floods there was a possibility of special loans that could be used immediately, is the Government planning something similar?

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I would not like to resort to making any rash statements about the allocation of funds, after all that is regulated by law and the Ministry of Finance is competent in handling those matters. The money will reach the recipients and we’ll make sure it does not take too long. As for the other things you have mentioned, we’ll be discussing them with the Government Ministers, and as for the funds, our deliberations have shown that the funds kept in the budgetary chapter of the Ministry for Regional Development may also be used. This should be stressed in view of the current situation, the current needs; for this purpose we have to know the position of the relevant Regional Commissioner. Simply, the local authorities have to be heard to have enough information or to make a qualified decision and allocate the funds well. There are some additional resources available as well.

Martin Pecina, Interior Minister: I would like to add that we talked with the Regional Commissioner early this morning. The quick money you are talking about is released by the region following the declaration of a state of emergency, and the funds are released from the regional budget. According to my information, this involves 500,000 CZK as aid for municipalities hit by floods, and 20,000 CZK as individual assistance to afflicted citizens.

Roman Prorok, spokesman of the Government of the Czech Republic: Thank you, next question?

Czech Television: One question addressed to the Interior Minister. What did he say to the President as regards the emergency measures, and who initiated that meeting?

Martin Pecina, Interior Minister: My meeting with the President, which was prepared well in advance, was expected to discuss measures to combat extremism. I was to brief him not only on what the Interior Ministry was preparing to do in its efforts to fight extremist forces but also to give him topical information on the current situation. Basically the President received the same information the media were given by the Prime Minister, since the information is open, public. We have no other kinds of information that could be given to the President and that could not be published here.

Roman Prorok, spokesman of the Government of the Czech Republic: Your question, please.

Televize Prima: I have two questions, the first one is addressed to the Prime Minister. The Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) are today holding their evaluating press conferences on the Czech EU presidency. I would like to ask you how would you evaluate our EU presidency during the time former Premier Topolánek was in charge and during the time…

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Well, this is a press conference devoted to the floods, which have claimed nine victims, and we are taking some fairly urgent and serious measures to help. I don’t think there is space for such questions.

Roman Prorok, spokesman of the Government of the Czech Republic: Excuse me, Mr. Premier, I would like to invite journalists to Monday’s press conference after the Government meeting where you will have enough room for such questions. Mr. Josef Kopecký, MF Dnes now.

MF Dnes: You are releasing up to 1,000 troops to help, how many of them have already left for the region concerned, and how many are actually taking part in rescue operations?

Martin Barták, Deputy Premier and Defence Minister: This is a standard procedure, I would say, following the Government resolution which decided about their deployment the troops will go within a matter of hours, and as I have said it is at the request of the Regional Commissioner, Interior Minister, the Mayor of Prague or the decision of the Defence Minister. The troops will be deployed accordingly. There will be 1,000 troops to be activated within 4-5 hours to be able to arrive in their destinations according to the given requirements. In this particular case the Army goes into action in the second wave. Our men are expected to be involved in removing flood damage, eventually in flood-control measures. To cut a long story short, the country’s Integrated Rescue System is coping well, it has done its job, and the Integrated Rescue System people are where they should be.

Roman Prorok, spokesman of the Government of the Czech Republic: Thank you. Another question, please.

Question: It’s just if the Government already knows where did the ninth victim come from because the rescue workers do not know where that person is from.

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I am sorry but I cannot answer that because I was briefed on the number of casualties shortly before leaving for this press conference. As you can well imagine, I wouldn’t like to comment on that after all the loss of human lives, human suffering and tragedies, I definitely would hate to speculate and so on.

Roman Prorok, spokesman of the Government of the Czech Republic: Thank you. I would like to add here that the members of the Government are receiving information throughout the day on an ongoing basis so the information is updated every minute. Any more questions?

Question: Yes, one addressed to the Transportation Minister. This concerns him personally, I would be interested to know his position on the flood damage.

Gustáv Slámečka, Transportation Minister: We have damaged and repaired infrastructures. As for the railway infrastructure, the most serious problems are on the corridor route linking Prague and Brno with Ostrava. No trains are running in the section between the border and Suchdol. There is a makeshift bus service in operation, and a shuttle service between Suchdol and Ostrava and Bohumín. Three regional railway lines are closed. We are working hard on restoring operation, devoting most of the attention to the three corridor routes. The situation will be continuously monitored. There are signs that the line could be reopened to traffic later today. There are follow-up transport restrictions with no trains running on the route. There are also some local detours in the road infrastructure due to flooded roads. Damage is hard to estimate because those localities are still under water, we’ll keep you up to date on the damage.

Roman Prorok, spokesman of the Government of the Czech Republic: If there are no more questions... Yes, there’s one from the Czech Press Agency.

CTK: May I have an additional query: when do you expect to have an estimate of the overall flood damage?

Roman Prorok, spokesman of the Government of the Czech Republic: Estimating an estimate is very hard indeed.

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I would not like to speculate on any deadlines for that. It’s now crucial to act, to send in material assistance, technology, to provide humanitarian aid in a bid to stabilize the situation and bring it back to normal and naturally, following on from there, only then can we give a precise figure on flood damage. But I would not speculate about any deadline, after all, it will be in everyone’s interest to estimate the damage as soon as possible.

Roman Prorok, spokesman of the Government of the Czech Republic: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for coming to this special press briefing held after today’s session of the Czech National Security Council and the extraordinary Government session. I would like to thank the Prime Minister and the members of his cabinet. I am looking forward to meeting you against next time.

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Thank you for coming, I usually do not do this, but I would like to thank you for the way you have been informing the public and keeping it up to date, which is extremely important for the areas hit by the floods and for their inhabitants. I also appreciate the way you’ve been briefing the general public, people who are travelling to those places etc. I think this is something I would like to thank you all for. Thanks for coming today.

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