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Czech Republic and Poland Floods Fact Sheet #1

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Background: Between July 6-9, torrential rains fell in the eastern portions of the Czech Republic (Moravia, Silesia, and eastern Bohemia) and in southern Poland (Katowice, Opole, and Walbrzych). The heavy rains resulted in widespread flooding of the Oder, Morava, Elbe, Upa, Jizera, Wisla, Nysa Klodzka, and Vistula rivers which forced thousands to flee their homes, badly damaged the transportation infrastructure, destroyed croplands, and contaminated water supplies over a wide regional area. Flooding has also occurred along rivers in Germany, Hungary, and Slovakia.

On July 9, U.S. Ambassador Jenonne R. Walker declared a disaster in the Czech Republic and BHR/OFDA immediately provided $100,000 to the Czech Red Cross. On the same day, U.S. Ambassador to Poland Nicholas Rey declared a disaster in Poland and BHR/OFDA also immediately sent $100,000 to the Polish Red Cross. The funds were used by these Red Cross societies for the transport and distribution of humanitarian relief supplies including tents, blankets, drinking water, hygiene items, and emergency food supplies. On July 19, BHR/OFDA sent an assessment team to the Czech Republic and Poland to assess additional humanitarian needs and make recommendations for future U.S. Government interventions.

Numbers Affected: The floods are the worst natural disaster to hit central Europe in decades. In the Czech Republic, 39 people were killed, 2,500 people injured, and thousands displaced by the flooding. In Poland, 60 people were killed and 137,000 people forced to evacuate their homes. During the weekend of July 19-20, additional rains caused another wave of flooding which resulted in many leaving their homes for the second time in two weeks. Once the flood waters recede in both countries, an extensive estimate of physical and monetary damage to factories, roads, bridges, railways, schools, farmlands, and animal stocks can be determined.

Current Situation: Flooding in major eastern Czech cities such as Ostrava, Olomouc, Opava, Prerov and its surrounding areas has affected electricity, running water, sewage treatment, and communications. Local health officials are most concerned about an outbreak of hepatitis A among 80,000 high-risk children in southern Moravia. The high waters have also contributed to widespread structural damage to homes and public buildings. The coal mining and steel production industries were severely impacted by the interruption of road and rail links to neighboring countries. Thousands of hectares of rich farmland remain underwater, and livestock, farming equipment, agricultural infrastructure, and crops have been damaged. According to the Czech Republic's Chamber of Agriculture, the floods are expected to reduce the wheat grain harvest by 500,000 metric tons and may result in the Czech Republic importing wheat grain stocks. More rain and infrastructure delays could add another 200,000 to 500,000 metric tons to overall losses during the current growing season.

In Poland, more than 1,900 square miles of western and southwestern Poland have been inundated, with about 1,280 cities, towns, and villages affected. Poland's three largest industrial plants have been shut down by flooding, and in the northern port city of Szczecin workers used sandbags and plastic sheeting to protect a shipyard and power plant from rising waters. Problems exist with water contamination from industrial sites in parts of the flooded region, especially the cities of Raciborz and the provinces of Wroclaw and Opole. Also, oil and hazardous chemicals have seeped into standing water. Local health officials are concerned that uncollected animal carcasses and debris will cause outbreaks of diseases such as dysentery, hepatitis, and typhoid.

Inoculation programs have begun in Raciborz and in Walbrzych province to prevent such outbreaks. In Wroclaw and Opole, there is the danger from unstable buildings whose foundations and walls were damaged by the flood and have been further weakened by standing water.

U.S. Government (USG) Assistance: BHR/OFDA has provided $100,000 each to the Czech Red Cross and the Polish Red Cross for the transport and distribution of humanitarian relief supplies including tents, blankets, drinking water, hygiene items, and emergency food supplies. The BHR/OFDA assessment team deployed to the Czech Republic and Poland are visiting the affected areas and coordinating with the Embassies and USAID missions, Czech and Polish government representatives, local relief organizations, and international donors and relief workers. The team will return to the U.S. on July 31 and present its recommendations to BHR/OFDA shortly therafter.

Total OFDA Assistance (to date). . . . . . . . . . . . . . $200,000