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Czech Republic: Worst-Hit Village Slowly Recovers From Flood

Troubky, Czech Republic; 17 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - The village of Troubky, near where the Morava and Becva Rivers merge in the lowlands of central Moravia, suffered the worst devastation of any location in the flooding in the Czech Republic. Nine people died, and many homes were destroyed.

The Mayor of the village says seven older residents died as their homes collapsed, crushing them. He says a young man was killed by a falling beam, as he entered a home to try to rescue a neighbor. A ninth victim, who survived the collapse of her home, died this week in the hospital.

Old homes built of clay brick crumbled when the flood waters came raging across open fields into Troubky the night of July 7. The electricity went out, and the water sent people scrambling upstairs into attics to escape.

One resident, Jarmila Kozakova, remembers how, at 10:30 at night, authorities announced on the local public address system that floodwaters were headed for the village. She says, within five minutes, water was waist-high in her home, and she escaped with her husband and 85-year-old mother.

Kozakova says, "we climbed out through that window and up that ladder to the balcony, and could not sleep all night, but looked out and watched as house after house collapsed and people cried for help." The next morning, she says, a man arrived on a bulldozer and residents climbed down into the scoop, and were then airlifted by helicopter to a nearby town (Drerpv).

Now, all the family's belongings that could be saved are in the backyard for cleaning and drying out. But, many more items, particularly furniture, are wrecked, and are out front waiting to be carted away. Water from surrounding fields continued to drain through the yard and under the house.

House after house down the main street has collapsed. Their scattered roofs are now at waist level. And, everything is covered in a foul-smelling mud. Shoes, boots, other articles of clothing, pots and pans, a mud-encrusted bicycle lie scattered in the village main square, not far from a collection of salvaged church pews, freshly scrubbed of mud. At the town hall, large quantities of donated bottled water, groceries and clothing await distribution.

Mayor Stanislav Zatloukal laments that the only warning he got of the impending flood was when someone rushed into his office that night and said the water was surging across the main street from the direction opposite the river. Zatloukal says 140 homes, built mainly before World War Two, collapsed in the flood. He said a further 300, or so, homes suffered serious damage, and might have to be demolished. Nevertheless, he says, he is guardedly optimistic about the future.

Mayor Zatloukal said, "I presume that Troubky has a future. And, I am counting on 90 percent of the residents returning, even though restoration will be difficult. Repairing houses that have not collapsed, but are thoroughly soaked to a height of about half a meter will not be easy. Everyone of the 650 houses in Troubky was affected."

Zatloukal also says that among the first things that had to be done after the floodwater receded was to remove drowned animals. The carcasses of about 60 calves from the local agriculture cooperative, as well as about 80,000 chickens and numerous pigs, hens and rabbits kept by residents had to be removed.

Army troops, using heavy equipment, are busy demolishing and disinfecting destroyed homes and barnyards.

Zatloukal says evacuees are being urged not to return for the time being, because - despite large quantities of humanitarian aid and free meals for residents at the local cooperative - there is still no running water or functioning sewage system.