Czech news in brief for January 3: Wednesday's top headlines

Rain triggers flood warning throughout Czechia, country sees surge in gun ownership, and more top headlines for Jan. 3, 2024.

Expats.cz Staff ČTK

Written by Expats.cz StaffČTK Published on 03.01.2024 08:46:00 (updated on 04.01.2024) Reading time: 6 minutes

weather warning Sixty places in Czechia get flood-level warnings

The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (ČHMÚ) reports heavy recent rainfall in the Czech Republic, causing 60 locations nationwide to see river levels hitting first or second flood-stage warnings. Ongoing snow and rain in mountainous areas like Šumava, Krkonoše, and the Orlické mountains are predicted until Thursday, potentially escalating river levels with melting snow. 

Forecasted river levels in the upper Otava basin may also increase the levels of flood alerts around the southwest of the country. The lower part of the Elbe River in Ústí nad Labem will also start to rise again in the next couple of days, the ČHMÚ warns, which will gradually increase flood-alert levels in the country.

weather Last year was hottest in Czechia since 1961

According to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (ČHMÚ), in 2023 Czechia experienced its warmest year since 1961, averaging 9.7 degrees Celsius. This temperature surpassed the 1991-2020 average by 1.4 degrees Celsius and exceeded the previous record in 2018 by 0.1 degrees Celsius. 

Ten months in 2023 saw temperatures that were above the average level. Precipitation across the year was typical, totaling 728 millimeters – slightly higher than the 1991-2020 average. Last year also registered the hottest September since records began – it was also one of the driest Septembers in recent years. In contrast, April was very cold with an average temperature of 6.4 degrees Celsius.

ELECTIONS Prague coalition ministers back postal voting

Government ministers this afternoon unanimously supported implementing postal voting ahead of a parliamentary discussion. Education Minister Mikuláš Bek emphasized its absence as an oversight and Health Minister Vlastimil Válek sees it as a step towards digitalizing the state. The coalition plans to introduce postal voting through a parliamentary draft, expecting cabinet approval. 

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The proposal aims to enable Czechs abroad to vote via mail in the 2025 parliamentary elections. Currently, Czechs abroad can vote at embassies. Proponents of the introduction of postal voting point out that it would save voters who live far away from polling stations both time and money. It also helps disabled people. An estimated 600,000 Czechs who live abroad permanently or have gone there to work or study could use the postal vote.

Weather Prague enacts flood protection measures

Prague is bracing for rising Vltava River levels, closing floodplains, and implementing preventive measures. The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute predicts an increase to 700 m3/s by tomorrow, initiating flood protection efforts. Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda assured public safety in a press statement issued by the city of Prague but urged compliance with measures.

The capital is closing underpasses, floodgates, and quays in key districts. Navigation halts in central Prague, prompting vessel relocation to protective ports. Mobile flood control measures lead to temporary traffic closures. Restaurant and ice rink closures on Čapadlo and ongoing hydrometeorological monitoring mark efforts to combat the escalating flood threat, emphasizing public cooperation in the city center.

Security Prague police evacuated Pařížská Street

Police closed a section of Prague's prestigious Pařížská Street this afternoon after discovering suspicious luggage in front of a shop. Evacuations are underway as a pyrotechnician examines the situation. The street, known for luxury goods and global brands, links Old Town Square to the Vltava Embankment.

Authorities stated, "Pařížská Street is currently partially closed due to the discovery of luggage. We are waiting for a pyrotechnician. Adjacent buildings are being evacuated." The street is among the world's most expensive shopping areas.

ANIMALS Prague Zoo welcomes new baby gorilla

A Western lowland gorilla has been born in Prague Zoo to 10-year-old female Duni and 26-year-old male Kisumu, the zoo announced. The sex of the newborn is not yet known. Duni is the daughter of the famous Moya, the first gorilla born in the Czech Republic.

Prague Zoo director Miroslav Bobek expressed joy at the continuation of Moya's story and the success of their breeding program. The birth was made possible by the difficult decision to split the gorilla group and bring in a new male. The only curious observer of the birth was Ajabu, the latest gorilla cub born in the zoo.

HEADS OF STATE Prime minister holds annual lunch with Pavel

Prime Minister Petr Fiala and his wife Jana this afternoon arrived at Prague Castle to have lunch with President Petr Pavel and his wife Eva. The meeting, which is typically a social gathering, may also involve discussions on political topics such as the adoption of a common European currency, lowering inflation, and support for Ukraine.

In his New Year's speech, Pavel urged for concrete steps to fulfill this commitment, but the current coalition government does not fully agree on their stance. The meeting at Prague Castle is a tradition and an opportunity for the president and prime minister to discuss various topical issues, many of which remain undisclosed.

crime Police bust one of Prague's largest cocaine operations in recent years

Prague police have arrested two men for selling and supplying large amounts of cocaine to other dealers. The arrests were made after a several-month-long investigation, during which authorities seized 12.5 kilos of cocaine and CZK 14 million. 

One of the detained men was using the drug money to buy expensive cars and properties across the Czech Republic. Both men are facing up to 12 years in prison. The investigation also revealed two marijuana cultivation labs and resulted in the seizure of several vehicles. This operation is expected to have a significant impact on the cocaine market in Prague, police say.

weather Heavy rains trigger flood warnings throughout Czechia

Heavy rain has elevated river levels, triggering over 40 measuring sites to report flood stages in the Czech Republic. The Elbe in Vestřev and the Otava in Rejštejn reached the highest threat level. Ten locations reported the second flood activity level, while others exceeded the first level. Šumava, Krkonoše, and Jizera mountains face a heavy rain warning until Thursday morning, with stream flooding warnings ongoing.

Prášile in Šumava experienced 70 mm of rain in 24 hours, leading to the Otava River reaching the third flood stage. Several regions, including Hradec Králové and South Bohemia, are grappling with rising river levels.

Society Czechia witnesses surge in gun ownership

The Czech Republic witnessed a surge of nearly a quarter million legally held guns between 2013 and 2022, totaling almost a million, reports Seznam Zprávy. While not every tenth inhabitant owns a firearm, the average license holder possesses three, signaling a growing trend in gun ownership. A recent shooting tragedy at Prague's Charles University underscored concerns about individuals owning multiple guns, with the perpetrator possessing eight.

Despite a modest increase in license holders, statistics reveal a steady rise in the number of weapons per holder. In terms of ownership per region, Prague leads with over 70 percent of all weapons, emphasizing a notable preference for category C and CI firearms, along with a 25 percent increase in category B weapons.

Economy Investments in Czech startups plummet

Investments in Czech start-ups plummeted by 75.5 percent to CZK 11.4 billion in 2023, with the average investment per start-up dropping to CZK 24 million, six million less than in 2022, as per data from the Startup Czech Republic project. Austerity measures by foreign investors, coupled with Czech inflation and rising interest rates, contributed to the decline.

Ninety-eight companies received funding, and nine Czech-developed firms were acquired by major foreign players, including IBM and Cisco. Economic challenges abroad, layoffs, and disrupted plans for expansion also impacted local technology firms, though the Czech Republic initially resisted negative trends.

Automotive Tesla most registered brand of electric car in Czechia

In 2023, Tesla secured its position as the most registered brand of battery electric cars in the Czech Republic, with 1,619 new registrations, surpassing Škoda after a three-year streak. Clean Transport, relying on Ministry of Transport data, reported the surge, highlighting a 5.5-fold increase in Tesla registrations compared to 2022.

The Model Y emerged as the top choice, constituting two-thirds of Tesla's registrations, followed by the Model 3, Model S, and Model X. Tesla's competitive pricing strategy, including significant discounts, contributed to its success, despite Škoda ENYAQ leading as the most registered individual model in 2023.

Capital Prague Zoo sees slight decline in visitors in 2023

Prague Zoo welcomed nearly 1.36 million visitors in 2023, a slight decline from 1.42 million in 2022, as reported by the zoo's director, Miroslav Bobek. The figures indicate a return to pre-pandemic levels, with 2019 recording 1.46 million visitors unaffected by anti-epidemic measures. During the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, the zoo's attendance remained below one million.

Despite the slight dip, Prague Zoo continues to be one of the city's top attractions, ranking third among tourist destinations in 2023, with Petrin's cable car and Prague Castle claiming the top two spots, respectively, according to Czech Tourism data.

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