- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2002

PRAGUE The record-setting floods that swept through the western half of the Czech Republic last week are gone, but the area still is reeling from damage that could cost up to $3 billion.
The state of emergency, which was due to expire Thursday, has been extended to the end of the month as officials grapple with damage to subways, electrical transformers, sewage-treatment plants, roads, bridges, rail lines and buildings.
Rampaging rivers crested at 26 feet above normal in the capital last week. More than half of the city's metro system is out of order, and a criminal investigation is under way to determine whether someone should be held liable.
More than 1 million cubic yards of water have been pumped out of the three-line system, said Martin Kupka, a spokesman for city hall.
"It is the biggest problem of the flooding, because the metro is the main transportation system in Prague," Mr. Kupka said.
Investigators want to know why floodwaters were flowing into the tunnels before the system was shut down last week. That apparently made it impossible to protect the network.
"The subway was projected to withstand a nuclear attack, so obviously it shouldn't have been so damaged by water," said Jiri Pehe, a political analyst. "Certainly, they kept the subway running too long."
The transit authority has struggled to counter the lost subway service by putting 100 more buses and trams on the streets.
Igor Nemec, Prague's newly appointed mayor, has come under attack in the local press for understating the threat of the approaching flood. On Aug. 12, as the Vltava River was rapidly rising, the mayor was on television playing down the threat by talking about 20-year flood levels, which were manageable.

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