Czech Republic and Poland Floods Fact Sheet #3



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 U.S. Ambassador toPoland Nicholas Rey declared a disaster in Poland.

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 50,000 people were evacuated from their homes. In Poland, 55 people were confirmed dead and 142,000 people forced to evacuate. During the weekend of July 19-20, more rains caused another wave of flooding, forcing many to leave their homes for the second time in two weeks.

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 affected 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. Total economic losses are estimated at close to $2 billion. In Poland, floods inundated more than 5,900 square miles of in the west and southwest areas, affecting over 86 cities and towns, 875 villages, and 450, 000 farms. The flooding destroyed 110 medical facilities, 250 schools, 140 bridges, and 1,600 km of roads. 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. Inoculation programs have begun in Raciborz and in Walbrzych province to prevent outbreaks of diseases such as dysentery, hepatitis, and typhoid. 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. Preliminary damage is estimated at over $2 billion.

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. On July 19, BHR/OFDA sent an assessment team, including two representatives from the Department of Defense (DOD), to both countries visit the affected areas and assess humanitarian needs. The team worked in coordination with the Embassies and USAID missions, Czech and Polish government representatives, local relief organizations, and international donors and relief workers. The team returned to the U.S. on July 31 and presented its findings to BHR/OFDA. The team found that in both countries the emergency phase is over and assistance should now focus on recovery and reconstruction, especially in the economic sector, including small businesses, agriculture, and transportation infrastructure such as roads and bridges. The team also noted that both nations should consider a more unified national command and control structure, including the use of common radio frequencies, in their disaster preparedness. In health and water/sanitation, the team recommended that hepatitis A vaccinations be provided to vulnerable groups in flood-affected areas, as a preventive measure more than an emergency need. In the Czech Republic, BHR/OFDA is providing transport for donated hepatitis A vaccines, while in Poland, BHR/OFDA is working with UNICEF to provide these vaccines. DOD provided 75,000 humanitarian daily rations for flood victims, valued at $326,000, as well as in-kind contributions of vehicles, cots, sleeping bags, and blankets.

Total OFDA Assistance (to date) $254,580
Other USG Assistance (to date) $333,500
Total USG Assistance (to date) $588,080