Flood shows flaws in emergency alert system

Flaws in emergency alert system

North Bohemia – Flood victims in the north-west of the Czech Republic complain that the authorities failed to alert them properly and in time about the coming disaster which eventually hit the region hard on 7 and 8 August. Aktuálně.cz has spoken to some of them.

However, firemen and other parts of the integrated emergency system argue that the flood came very fast and that they were doing everything they could, adding that it is very difficult to alert a municipality completely cut off from the electricity network.

“We woke up in the morning, and the water was everywhere. Nobody had alerted us,” Monika Hoffmanová from Hrádek nad Nisou told to Aktuálně.cz.

“Of course, somebody could have felt that the alert came late, but this is the responsibility of the local authorities,” said Vlasta Suchánková, the spokeswoman of the Liberec region police. “We received the warning at around 4 AM, and immediately informed our colleagues from the municipalities,” she added.

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Radek Vojík, the spokesman of the Liberec region firemen said that, for example, inhabitants of the Raspenava municipality were warned by sirens at 4:33 AM, and later by local radio. The first flood wave came at 9 AM, the second at noon.

“However, the second wave was stronger, nobody had anticipated that. We asked for help from neighboring municipalities, however they were not able get there at all. For a while, Raspenava was completely cut off,” says Vojík.

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Interior Minister: People did not trust firemen

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Interior Minister Radek John (Public Affairs), sworn in less than one month ago, says that the emergency system worked well. However, John admits that in some municipalities, people were not alerted in time. “It is mayors’ duty to alert the public, and they were informed (about the threat), but nobody believed it was going to come so fast,” explained the minister.

For example, in Chrastava, 100 people were told to evacuate already in the morning, but only seven of them did that, John said, adding that many municipalities were without electricity, while cellular networks were down due to overload. These municipalities were alerted by cars with loudspeakers. However, some of the municipalities were already inaccessible for cars. 

“The lesson”

“Here is the lesson: trust firemen and buy yourself transistor radios,” said Radek John.

President of the Association of Regions and governor of the Southern Moravia Region Michal Hašek from the Social Democratic Party says there were no complaints about the emergency system from his fellow governors.

Hašek explained that every region has its own way to alert its citizens in case of floods or other situations. “For example, here in Southern Moravia we have an unique system of short-messages sent for free to citizens’ mobile phones by the municipalities or the regional authority in case of extraordinary situations,” Hašek said.

However, this system may face difficulties when the cellular networks are out, as happened in the Liberec Region.

On Saturday 7 August, the flood-hit areas were visited by Interior Minister Radek John and Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra from the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). On Sunday, the area was visited by PM Petr Nečas (ODS) and President Václav Klaus.

John said that the government need to send financial help as soon as possible, while Vondra said that the government will discuss a possibility of sending the army to help.

Read more: Fatal floods halt election campaign in Czech Republic

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