PICTURE: “Jumping doll!” Remember how Prague was destroyed by the flood in 2002

“I would say that Prague is not endangered. The situation is, I would say, extremely excellent. All bodies are fulfilling their tasks as they should, “said May 13, 2002, Mayor Němec (then ODS) in a television interview on one of Prague’s bridges. The river level rose – at the time of the interview the flow of the Vltava was 4737 cubic meters of water per second, the next day it increased to 5160.

A few hours later, after Němec’s statement, which inadvertently entered the history of Czech politics, the water reached 17 metro stations. Karlín had to be evacuated – on August 15, a waterlogged house collapsed in Křižíkova Street. 50,000 people had to leave their homes, although some returned despite the ban. Firefighters, soldiers, police officers and volunteers helped the inhabitants of the metropolis in boats. Sandbags were built, but the level of the Vltava was much higher…

The power in the center was turned off, the municipality closed the Smetana embankment on August 12 at 2 pm, and in the evening a day later – with the exception of Barrandovsky – it was not allowed on any of Prague’s bridges. Photographs from 2002 still evoke (not only) a lot of emotions among Praguers. The editors of Pražský deník obtained interesting pictures from fateful days from the archives of the sixth city district. Podbaba is flooded on one of them and a billboard of the then mobile operator Oskar rises from the water with the slogan: “Jumping doll!”

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The strong story of the sea lion Gaston

The saying from the distorted title of the painting of the Virgin Mary of Skokov expresses astonishment and irony fits perfectly to the 18-year-old event. After all, even the German expressor later tried to resist criticism because of his – almost popular – expression. “No one, not even the water managers, believed that something so huge would come,” he later said as head of the Data Protection Authority.

The German paid for the fact that Prague began building a flood protection system in 1997, and five years later only the first stage of measures was built in the Old Town. The damage reached 27 billion crowns. 134 animals died in the zoo of the capital, the story of the sea lion Gaston, whose current carried him all the way to Germany, where he died of exhaustion, was particularly strong. The hero became the hippo Slávek, who survived for two days in the flooded Pavilion of Large Mammals. Fortunately, the element in Prague did not choose human lives.

Consequences of the current flash flood in the Prague Zoo

Perhaps that is why the former mayor complained that the media distorted the crisis management of the metropolis. “I certainly wouldn’t use the word excellent anymore, because it turned against me. But the fact is, I don’t know what else we can do better. Everything turned out the best as it could, given the situation that prevailed here, “he said in interview for iDNES.cz in 2013.

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Seven years ago, Prague was also hit by a flood, but the consequences were no longer so devastating. According to the municipality, the current flood protection system is designed to protect the capital from the effects of floods comparable to 2002. The total length of flood control measures is almost 20 kilometers. The height of the mobile fence can exceed six meters.

Can the millennial water repeat itself?

“Under all anti-flood measures, waterproof reinforced concrete, sheet pile or clay-cement walls are built to the depth of the impermeable subsoil, in some places up to 12 meters deep,” the municipal security website states.

Some meteorologists and other experts warn that the situation in 2002 may return – also due to the loss of quality agricultural land that would keep the water in the landscape. Unfortunately, the strength of nature was symbolically reminded by the weather on the night from Friday to Saturday also in the zoo. According to director Miroslav Bobek, Troja Jiřího Janda Street has turned into a mountain stream. In addition to the mud, it also brought “large rubble” to the zoo. Nevertheless, the complex is open to visitors at the weekend. However, the zoo staff had to clean the sea lion pool.

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