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Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Prague counts the cost of floods
Tourists in Prague
The tourists are trickling back to Prague

Miluse Holc is a remarkably cheerful woman considering she has lost just about everything. She lives with her husband Frantisek in the Karlin district of Prague - one of the worst affected by last month's floods.

She says she has good days and bad days, but looking around what used to be their home, it is hard to see what there is to feel good about.

Mr and Mrs Holc
The Holcs have lost their home

Even the plaster from the walls has gone. Their flat is on the ground floor and at its height the water submerged it completely.

The furniture was all thrown away once the stinking mud was cleared. To make things worse, Frantisek Holc, a music teacher, has lost his livelihood.

When we called to see the Holcs, they were hanging out hundreds of manuscripts to dry like laundry.

The violin and accordeons Mr Holc used to teach his pupils with are ruined. And the Holc family had no insurance.

Metro damaged

There are many personal tragedies in Prague like this one. But a month on, there are plenty who feel the damage could have been much worse.

The River Vltava came within inches of the top of the flood defences.

If they had been breached, the historic old town with its priceless architectural treasures would have been deluged. The cost of the clean-up across the Czech Republic could still run to nearly two billion euros.

Metro repairs
The metro is scheduled to reopen by Christmas

Heading deep underground it is easy to see why it all adds up. The Prague metro system is in chaos. A third of the system was hit by the floods - 18 stations need massive repairs and three are still under water.

The metro was built by the Communists in the 1970s to withstand a nuclear attack, but the floods proved too much for it.

The water poured from station to station along the tunnels, wrecking everything before it.

The authorities say they just could not cope with the volume of water.

They had been warned to expect water levels that come once a century. In the end, they were two metres higher than that - their "anti-flood plan" just did not work.

Tourists return

But nothing was going to keep the tourists away from Prague for very long. They were strolling along the Charles Bridge like they do every year just weeks after the waters subsided.

At the height of the floods, the bridge - one of Prague's greatest tourist attractions - was closed.

waste is burnt to avoid disease
Flood waste is burnt to reduce risk of disease

The traders and the musicians are back now, but if they were expecting plenty of business, they are disappointed.

There are only half the number of tourists now then there normally are at this time of year.

Some of the stallholders we spoke to said they were not sure if this was down to the effects of 11 September or to the floods.

They said the international television pictures of Prague had put many people off.

But it is a city getting back to normal. The people of Prague say they will be better prepared next time, but they fervently hope there will not be a next time.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Janet Barrie
"Nothing is going to keep the tourists away for long"

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See also:

16 Aug 02 | Europe
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