The Heat Is Online

Catastrophic European Flooding Worst in A Century

As Floods Ebb in Prague, Threat Rolls Into Germany

The New York Times, Aug. 15, 2002

As floodwaters slowly began to recede in the historic center of Prague, heavy flooding threatened the southeast German cultural capital of Dresden, where Italian paintings and other artworks in the world famous Zwinger Palace gallery were left in a flooded basement, and where the Semper Opera will remain closed for weeks. City authorities prepared to evacuate thousands of residents and hospital patients with military helicopters if needed.

Grimly, political leaders began to count the cost. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany, who faces a tough re-election battle in September, traveled to heavily flooded areas in the former East Germany and announced about $380 million in swift aid.

"Ten years' work has been destroyed in a night," the chancellor said as he toured Grimma, a small town that had been renovated after reunification in 1990 but was severely flooded this week.

Vaclav Havel, the Czech president, was criticized for remaining on vacation in sun-drenched Portugal while some of his country's most historic areas were submerged. He returned to Prague, and he toured the flooded district of Holesovice today.

Noticing a submerged pub, he turned to a local resident and said, "You have a pub right here, but you can't even get yourselves a beer."

The taps may run dry, however, for a different reason: In the western town of Plzen, and the southern town of Ceske Budejovice, home of the original Budweiser, breweries stopped production this week because of the flooding.

There was no estimate of how long production would be suspended, nor of the cost of the flooding to infrastructure and to Czech tourism, which has proven a boon to the economy since the 1989 Velvet Revolution overthrew Communism and brought Mr. Havel to power.

Normally, thousands of tourists flock each day to towns like Cesky Krumlov, a Renaissance jewel in the south of the country. But its historic center is underwater and unlikely to receive tourists for the rest of the season, and the annual summer music festival there has been canceled, officials said.

Elsewhere in Central Europe, Austrian authorities continued to struggle to contain the the Danube River, which has overflowed in several places, halting shipping.

Greenpeace and other environmental groups tried to portray the flooding as a direct consequence of human-caused global warming, blaming oil companies.

Many scientists said that the summer storms that swamped Prague and other parts of Europe, as well as South Asia, are consistent with rainfall patterns expected in a warming climate.

Predictions call for more downpours. But experts stressed that no single storm, or single stormy season for that matter, could be singled out as linked to human alteration of the atmosphere.

The progressive paving over of Europe's increasingly urbanized landscape has also left water no place to go but downstream and downhill.

In Germany, where 12 people have died in the floods of recent days, workers in Dresden scrambled to save the precious artworks at the Zwinger Palace gallery. About 4,000 paintings were rushed to higher floors from basement storerooms, but the larger canvases could not be moved, museum officials said.

"We've got four enormous Italians trapped in the basement," said Uta Neidhard, an art curator at Zwinger Palace. She said those paintings had been lashed to the basement ceiling in hopes the waters would not rise that high. They included a work by Paolo Veronese, a 16th century Italian painter.

The gallery will be closed for the foreseeable future, and the Semper Opera House, where floodwater has been pumped out of the basement, will not reopen for eight weeks, said Volker Butzmann, the opera's technical director.

More than 200,000 Czechs have been forced to flee their homes this week in the worst floods for more than a century.

"It's as if somebody decided to wash this country away," a young Czech woman told a friend as she stood near a flood barrier in Prague early yesterday afternoon.

Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek said the damages from the floods could exceed 20 billion crowns, or about $632 million.

Although the waters began to recede in Prague late this evening, the danger moved swiftly down the Elbe River. Water was rising about a foot an hour at Usti nad Labem near the German border, and soldiers blew up a river barge that threatened to crash into a bridge near Litomerice, downstream from Prague.

In Roudnice nad Labem, another Czech town on the Elbe, a television reporter pointed to the waters rising in the 18th century town and said, "Every 10 minutes it is worse and worse."

This morning, the sun finally emerged around mid-morning in Prague, glinting of the city's many golden-topped spires and roofs, as some of the 14,000 civil defense workers mobilized around the country to fight the floods watched the swollen Vltava River slowly recede. Volunteers rushed to plug waters pouring in through backed up storm sewers, which flooded low-lying areas inland from the river.

Workers credited a "wall of hope," a 10-foot-high fence of tightly interlocked aluminum slats backed by sandbags and anchored deep in the riverbank, with keeping more than 6 feet of water from spilling into the old part of Prague just south of the Charles Bridge.

By midafternoon, the water was lapping at the tops of the barriers, and less than two feet remained beneath the arches of some major bridges. But by evening the water level had begun to go down.

Mayor Igor Nemec of Prague said it could take up to a week for the floodwaters to recede, and officials said it could take a month or more to restore full service on the city's subway system.

"There's nowhere to pump the water," said Milan Houska, a metro official.

Officials and art historians stressed that "Prague is still open for visitors," as Jiri Kotalik, an architectural historian and rector of the Academy of Fine Arts, put it.

"The real center is untouched except for Kampa, but thank God, I think the buildings will not be heavily damaged," Mr. Kotalik said. "They are built on medieval foundations, and Kampa used to be flooded every few years in the 17th and 18th centuries."

That did little to reassure Marie Sediva, the director of the newly opened Muzeum Kampa, which houses collections worth an estimated $40 million.

Marian Karel, a prominent glass artist who was helping her, said he was not worried that his own works might be damaged. But he said he feared for the museum's extensive collection of paintings by Frantisek Kupka, an influential painter at the turn of the 20th century, and an exhibit by the Czech collage artist Jiri Kolar, who died on Monday.

"I am alive, so I can always make my pieces again," Mr. Karel said. "But the worst is the things by Kolar because they are going to bury him on Thursday."

At Prague's riverside zoo, where keepers had to kill a hippopotamus and an elephant as floodwaters rose, five seals escaped into the rushing waters of the Vltava. Three were recaptured, but a zoo spokesman, Vit Kahle, said two were still at large in late afternoon. He said they could easily survive in the flooded Vltava. "But we do hope they will come home today," he said. "We have prepared dinner for them."

Tens of Thousands Flee Prague as Floods Invade Historic Center

The New York Times, Aug 14, 2002

PRAGUE, Aug. 13 — The city's historic center, a premier treasure of European architecture, was losing ground today to Vltava River floodwaters that by evening had swamped low-lying zones.

Tonight, with the river rushing at many times its normal volume, tens of thousands of residents had fled, alerted to expect a further surge after midnight.

The city's most famous tourist attraction, the 14th-century Charles Bridge, was closed and a backhoe and crane were stationed on it to remove trees and other flotsam that crashed into its pilings.

Former Mayor Jan Kasl said that without the removal of the debris pressure from the floodwaters could topple the structure.

The entire district of Kampa, and historic buildings including the French Embassy, the John Lennon wall and the zoo were all under water several yards deep.

Jiri Friedel, an official of the state company that regulates the Vltava, said he and fellow workers

were fighting to save Novotneho Lavka, a small pier housing restaurants and dance halls that juts into the river a few yards upstream of the Charles Bridge.

Prague's mayor, Igor Nemec, told journalists that water levels were expected to rise 10 more inches and that large areas of lower-lying suburbs could be inundated.

A Prague City Hall spokesman, Martin Kupka, said it was impossible to tell what damage had been done to the city's architectural gems, but he said "so far no buildings have collapsed."

President Vaclav Havel cut short a vacation in Portugal, where the weather was hot and sunny, and was expected in Prague on Wednesday.

At least three more Czechs have been killed in the floods since Monday night, including a 14-year-old girl who drowned near Tabor. The death toll in the Czech Republic now stands at nine; the total across Europe and Russia from a week of freak weather has reached 88.

Meteorologists say low pressure and relatively high temperatures have created a virtual water fountain above Central Europe. As heavy rains lashed the region for the seventh straight day, pooling on saturated ground, already-battered cities south of Prague were also submerged.

"The area where the risk is greatest is Prague and everything below Prague," Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla told Nova Television tonight, after the government was evacuated from its headquarters in the Straka Academy on the river bank to a palace on high ground.

South of Prague, the historic centers of Pilsen and Ceske Budejovice were under water. The center of Cesky Krumlov, a perfectly preserved Renaissance town, was inundated. In Pisek, waters rushed over the 13th-century stones of the Judita Bridge, Central Europe's oldest; only the heads of its decorative statues were visible.

Water was expected to soak other areas for days longer.

North of Prague, the Elbe, fed by the Vltava, overflowed in Dresden, leaking into the Semper Oper, the historic opera house rebuilt after Allied bombing in World War II. Flooding forced the closing of the city's train station and a hospital, news agencies reported.

Some 15,000 people were evacuated from Melnik, where the Vltava flows into the Elbe, and 1,600 people were evacuated from Decin, where the Elbe narrows near the German border.

In parts of Austria, at least, relief was in sight. The Salzach River was settling back into its channel, and hydrologists said there was no danger to Salzburg's old town, where Mozart was born.

The city's famous summer music festival was not seriously disrupted by the high waters, although they closed bridges in the city center for several days.

Viennese officials opened the New Danube, a channel parallel to the river, to keep floodwaters at bay. But large stretches of the Danube were closed to shipping.

In Prague, the adversity brought out a rare spirit of fellowship among normally taciturn residents, who worked together to fill sandbags and pump water out of flooded basements.

Many expressed anger that the city authorities had failed to prepare them for the floods.

"The system just doesn't work," said Jiri Domas as he pumped water from the basement of the Hotel Mucha in the Karlin district of Prague. "I pay my taxes and these people were paid with my taxes to be prepared, and they weren't."

Mr. Domas said he had had to buy his own sand and sandbags to protect his 39-room hotel.

By nightfall, the city center was a ghost town, as offices and homes were evacuated and electric power was cut to many buildings to prevent blackouts. The luxurious Four Seasons hotel, alongside the Charles Bridge, sent its 130 guests elsewhere, said the marketing manager, Andrew Farnfield.

The city's animals were not immune to the waters, either. While ducks and swans paddled placidly on the Vltava's rushing waters, penguins, storks and gorillas were evacuated from the Prague Zoo, and a crane was used to lift two rhinoceros to high ground. But one turned violent and had to be killed, and keepers had to shoot a 35-year-old Indian elephant named Kadir as water rose to his ears and he refused to move to high ground.

If the rising floodwaters seemed at times tragic, there was also a touch of the absurd. As civil defense sirens wailed, firetrucks rushed past and police loudspeakers urged residents to evacuate the area, a group of French tourists from Nice stood yards from the floodwaters in seeming oblivion.

"The town will be flooded," said one Frenchwoman. "Is this a joke or what?"

Prague orders 50,000 evacuated

Heavy rains produce flood of the century

The Boston Globe, Aug. 13, 2002

PRAGUE - Prague authorities ordered the evacuation of an estimated 50,000 people late yesterday as the biggest flood in more than a century approached the Czech capital.

Mayor Igor Nemec said at a news conference that parts of Mala Strana, the medieval part of the city center, would be flooded by this afternoon as heavy rain in the south forced dams on the river Vltava, which flows through Prague, to open their gates.

Nemec advised people in low-lying districts to leave immediately, and said that authorities would start taking people to schools and other shelters at 3 a.m today.

''We have to start now with the evacuation of Karlin, Lower Liben, Mala Strana, Smichov and Holesovice,'' Nemec told reporters.

''We are calling on all citizens, especially motorists, to get into their cars and drive away from these places.

''From 3 a.m., organized evacuation of the population will start,'' he said.

Heavy rains since last week have been swelling rivers in the south of the country, upstream in the Vltava and its tributaries, and soaking the ground until it can absorb no more water.

The floods have killed seven people so far in the Czech Republic, and thousands have been evacuated from towns and cities including the regional capital Ceske Budejovice, home of the original Budweiser beer, and Cesky Krumlov, another popular tourist destination.

Jiri Friedel from Povodi Vltavy, a state company managing dams on the Vltava, said Prague had not since 1890 seen the river as high as it was expected today.

Weather forecasters said more rain would come overnight and today.

Meanwhile the Europe-wide toll from the flooding, which swept away Russian tourists, triggered landlslides in Germany and Switzerland, and shut down shipping on the Danube in Austria, reached at least 74 yesterday.

Russia was by far the hardest-hit area, with at least 58 deaths.

Giant cranes hoisted cars and other debris out of the Black Sea yesterday, and cleanup crews scoured coastal beaches in search of more bodies.

Thousands of Russian tourists who had descended on the Black Sea Coast for their summer vacations were caught in the surprise flooding. Many remain stranded, their cars swept out to sea by a wall of water that came rushing down from the mountains.

As many as 4,000 tourists were still trapped in Shirokaya Balka, a scenic coastal village that was devastated by the flooding, the Interfax news agency reported.

Austria saw its first three casualties in more than a week of unprecedented flooding. Two were in hard-hit towns in Salzburg Province, where a firefighter was swept away by a churning river in Mariapfarr.

Also a man's body was found floating in a flooded cellar in Hallein. The third was a 48-year-old man who was crushed in a landslide near the village of Kirchheim in Upper Austria province.

''The scene is catastrophic,'' Wilfried Weissgaerber, the national fire brigade commander for the province of Lower Austria, told Austrian radio as he described collapsed houses and washed-out railway tracks.

In Germany, a police officer died after her car went out of control and turned over late Sunday night on the way to Wismar on the Baltic Sea coast, and a 68-year-old woman died of exhaustion while trying to clear her flooded basement in Dresden. Near the city of Jena, another driver was killed in an accident that injured nine others, officials said.

Authorities in Thuringia State issued a flood alert for the Pleisse River, which broke its banks. Firefighters stacked 30,000 sandbags to protect houses from the rising water, and hundreds of German soldiers were helping residents reinforce riverbanks in other critical areas.

In the north, a train derailed near Hamburg after running into a mudslide caused by the rain. No one was injured, though the conductor and a passenger were treated for shock.

Material from Reuters and the Associated Press was used in this report.

This story ran on page A10 of the Boston Globe on 8/13/2002.

Dozens Are Dead as Floods Sweep Through Europe

The New York Times, Aug. 13, 2002

PRAGUE, Aug. 12 — Parts of the historic center of Prague were under water tonight and 50,000 residents were ordered evacuated as rivers swollen by more than a week of near constant rain etched ribbons of destruction across Central Europe and southern Russia.

More than a dozen people were killed by high waters today, pushing the toll for the last week well past 70. In Russia alone, 58 people have died in flooding caused by some of the heaviest rains in memory.

With the worst rains since 1890 pelting the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla declared a state of emergency in nearly half the country.

Late tonight, Prague's mayor, Igor Nemec, said Mala Strana, the carefully preserved heart of the old city, could be flooded by Tuesday afternoon because heavy rains had forced the opening of three dams farther south on the River Vltava.

The mayor ordered residents to start leaving as soon as they could and said city schools would open before dawn to accommodate evacuees.

In Austria, at least three people died as the Salzach River burst its banks south of Salzburg and threatened to inundate the city at the height of its famous summer festival, forcing authorities to close most bridges and major roads. Floodwaters rose in Hungary and Germany, and in northern Austria the authorities halted river traffic on parts of the Danube.

Mayor Nemec said the Vltava River, which wends through the center of Prague, flowing fast through the arches of the historic Charles Bridge, was already more than five feet above its normal level and was expected to rise six and a half feet more by Tuesday.

High embankments should protect much of the city center, but the floods expected on Tuesday would cover historic Kampa Island, a favorite tourist destination in the shadow of Prague Castle, parts of the Old Town near the medieval Jewish Cemetery, the working-class district of Liben and all the main islands in the Vltava.

The mayor said the floodwaters could take up to a week to recede.

In Linz, Austria, 120 miles west of Vienna, rescue workers lowered baskets from helicopters to rescue people stranded in their homes, and a fireman was swept away by roiling waters in Mariapfarr, near Salzburg. In the eastern German city of Leipzig, firefighters and soldiers helped residents battle rising waters as the Pleisse River broke its banks.

German tourists fleeing the Austrian flooding found the autobahn between Salzburg and Munich under as much as five feet of water, Reuters reported. Three people died in Germany today, including an 8-year-old girl who was hit by an uprooted tree, and a state of emergency was declared in parts of the German states of Bavaria and Saxony.

In Switzerland, the river port of Basel was shut after part of the swollen Rhine River was closed to navigation, and in France a sodden mountainside gave way, sliding into a highway near Moutiers in the French Alps.

In southeastern Russia, where at least 58 people died when flash floods swept vacation resorts near the Black Sea coast over the weekend, authorities today began vaccinating residents and vacationers, fearing an outbreak of hepatitis A and typhoid.

In Prague, soldiers and police officers were helping fill sandbags in a last-minute effort to protect pubs and residences dating back centuries on Kampa Island. Some residents said the government had moved too slowly to protect them.

"It's terribly badly organized," said Ladislav Pregner, as he moved sandbags to try to protect his hotel, the Golden Scissors, from rising waters. "The cops just stand there, and if the waters come it's going to be a big problem."

Mr. Pregner pointed to the half-dozen soldiers slowly filling sandbags as tourists milled around taking pictures. "We had to buy our own sandbags and buy our own sand to fill them," he said. "The city is totally unprepared."

Farther along the embankment, floodwaters were already filling the basement of the Kampa Museum, and curators worked feverishly through the morning to move their collection of modern art to higher floors. By late afternoon, a huge wooden chair from the museum's collection, which once stood on a concrete pile in the river, was half submerged.

Librarians evacuated books and rare documents from the basement of the National Library, the Klementinum, and from the basement of the Czech senate in the Waldstejn Palace.

At least seven people have died from the storms in the Czech Republic over the last six days, including two volunteer firemen and, today, a vacationer who was swept away in the Prague suburb of Radotin.

By late evening, floodwaters had risen in several historic towns, including Cesky Krumlov, a Renaissance jewel near the Austrian border, and the fez-making city of Strakonice, whose 12th-century castle sits on an island in the middle of the normally placid Otava River. There, the regional governor ordered 4,300 residents evacuated from the city center, and the authorities feared that it might take until dawn to move them all.

Asked why it had taken until near midnight today to announce the partial evacuation of Prague, Mayor Nemec replied that he had been poorly advised. "I'm not a water engineer," he told a reporter.

Meteorologists said abnormal weather patterns had brought the region the equivalent of several months rainfall in just six days. Prime Minister Spidla said the floods were worsened by industrial farming and forestry that was introduced during four decades of Communist rule. "We have to begin thinking about how to reconstruct our landscape in order to avoid such floods again," Mr. Spidla said.

The Czech Hydrometeorological Office said late today that the heavy rains would gradually move eastward, with only occasional showers continuing in Prague and the south and west of the country.

But a senior river water official, Jiri Friedel, said even light rains would increase the flooding. "The ground is saturated and the water has no place to go," he said.

Several hundred Prague residents and some of the many visitors drawn to the historic city gathered on the 14th-century Charles Bridge to watch the racing brown river waters. In the 19th century, felled trees shooting down the river in floods brought down two of the bridge's massive sandstone arches.

In Zbraslav, an outlying suburb of Prague alongside the Vltava, Miloslava Prikrylova, 73, looked glumly from her ground-floor window at the flooded orchards across a highway.

"I've lived here 40 years and we've never seen anything like this," she said. Then, with a touch of the humor for which Prague is known, she added, "I have my bathing suit ready."

European Flooding Kills at Least 72
The Associated Press
, Aug. 12, 2002

VIENNA, Austria -- Europe's flooding death toll swelled to at least 72 on Monday as torrential rains unleashed raging waters that swept away Russian tourists, triggered landslides in Germany and Switzerland and shut down shipping on the Danube River in Austria.

Russia was by far the hardest-hit area, with at least 58 deaths. Giant cranes hoisted ruined cars and other debris out of the Black Sea on Monday, and cleanup crews scoured coastal beaches in search of more bodies.

Thousands of Russian tourists who had descended on the Black Sea Coast for their summer vacations were caught up in the surprise flooding. Many remain stranded, their cars swept out to sea by a wall of water that came rushing down from the mountains.

As many as 4,000 tourists were still trapped in Shirokaya Balka, a scenic coastal village that was devastated by the flooding, the Interfax news agency reported.

An investigative team was being formed to examine all the deaths for possible criminal charges, prosecutor Nikolai Buzko told the ITAR-Tass news agency. The team was also examining why some buildings had been erected in areas where development is prohibited because of erosion and flooding concerns.

Austria saw its first two casualties in more than a week of unprecedented flooding. Both were in hard-hit towns in Salzburg province: A firefighter was swept away by a churning river in Mariapfarr, and a man's body was found floating in a flooded cellar in Hallein.

"The scene is catastrophic," Wilfried Weissgaerber, the national fire brigade commander for the province of Lower Austria, told Austrian radio as he described collapsed houses and washed-out railway tracks.

In Germany, a police officer died after her car ran out of control and turned over late Sunday night on the way to Wismar on the Baltic Sea coast. Near the city of Jena, another driver was killed in an accident that injured nine others, officials said.

Authorities in Thuringia state issued a flood alert for the Pleisse River, which broke its banks. Firefighters stacked 30,000 sandbags to protect houses from the rising water, and hundreds of German soldiers were helping residents reinforce riverbanks in other critical areas.

In the north, a train derailed near Hamburg after running into a mudslide caused by the rain. No one was injured, though the conductor and a passenger were treated for shock.

In the Czech Republic, thousands of people fled their homes Monday after numerous rivers overflowed their banks. In Radotin, a small town west of Prague, a 55-year-old man drowned in the swollen Vltava River, raising the death toll in that country to seven.

Authorities feared the Vltava could flood some areas of Prague, including the famous Kampa island, known for its architecture, and a zoo on the outskirts of the Czech capital. Some animals were moved to higher ground as a precaution.

A Prague hospital in the flood zone evacuated about 100 patients Monday, and workers were moving books and important documents to higher floors in buildings that house the National Library and the Czech Senate.

In eastern Switzerland, torrential rains caused a series of small landslides, including one that cut off a rail line between Chur and Arosa. Another on the Griesalp mountain in central Switzerland swept away a bridge, stranding more than 150 people until an emergency span could be put in place.

Austrian authorities used helicopters to rescue stranded homeowners from rooftops in Linz, about 120 miles west of Vienna, and 4,000 soldiers joined sandbagging operations Monday in the waterlogged provinces of Lower Austria and Upper Austria.

Water levels in the Danube River, which flows through Vienna, were being monitored anxiously. Austria's navigation authority halted all shipping on the Danube Monday as water levels neared 100-year highs, spokesman Reinhard Vorderwinkler said.

In Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, the sightseeing boat Amadeus sank Monday after being swamped in the flood-swollen Salzach River. There were no injuries.

Police in the scenic Danube town of Krems, meanwhile, said there were reports of evacuated homes being looted.

Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press


Europe swamped by rain, Aug. 12, 2002

Floods are causing havoc in central Europe forcing people to flee their homes, and closing roads and railways.

In Austria helicopters lifted stranded homeowners from rooftops, while in Germany parts of Bavaria are under a state of emergency, and the Czech capital Prague is awaiting the worst floods in more than a century.

The chaos comes after floods in Russia last week caused more than 50 deaths.

Foul weather is also ruining holidays in western and southern Europe, such as Spain and Italy, which would normally be basking in baking sun.

More rain is widely forecast across the region.

Disaster area

Thousands of troops in Austria joined sandbagging operations on Monday in waterlogged regions west of Vienna, while rescue workers lowered food in baskets to people sitting on rooftops.

"The scene is catastrophic," said Wilfried Weissgaerber, national fire brigade commander for Lower Austria, describing collapsed houses and washed-out railway tracks.

Floodwaters were reported to be pouring down normally tranquil cobbled streets.

The city of Salzburg has been declared a disaster area, and all its bridges closed.

Officials were warning motorists to get their cars out of underground car parks, which were rapidly filling with water.

Autobahn closed

In Germany three people have died in weather-related accidents since Saturday.

On Monday in Bavaria the main A8 autobahn became the latest major road to be closed, with waters as high as 1.5 metres (five feet) in some areas.

In Traunstein, homes were evacuated amid fears that a damaged local dam would burst, while in Augsburg the flat roof of a warehouse collapsed under the weight of water.

In the east of the country, firefighters were called out 300 times in the early hours of Monday, as residents attempted to protect their homes from floodwater.

Parts of Dresden were also sealed off.


In the Czech Republic the capital Prague is bracing for a major flood, just days after storms in the south of the country killed six people.

"The forecast is bad," said Josef Novotny of the Prague crisis committee, warning that the Vltava river could burst its banks overnight.

Floods affected some parts of Prague on Friday, but Mr Novotny said twice as much water was now bearing down on the city.

Several southern towns are already cut off by water, and some have been evacuated.

"Trains are not running, because bridges have fallen, and buses are not running, because roads are damaged," the mayor of the southern town of Prachatice, Jan Bauer, told Czech radio.

Officials called on residents of the UNESCO-protected town of Cesky Krumlov - the second most popular tourist destination in the country - to leave.