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Poland: Parliament Meets To Tackle Floods Calamity

By Christopher Klimiuk and Jolyon Naegele

Warsaw/Otrokovice; 16 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Poland's Parliament is meeting in special session today, in a bid to rush through laws which would ease the flow of funds and help hundreds of communities recover from devastating floods.

Parliamentarians in Warsaw began with a moment's silence for those who have died and the hundreds of thousands more made homeless by the huge downpours that began early last week.

Our Warsaw correspondent reports that opposition speakers thus far have blamed the government for indolence and questioned why state of emergency measures were not introduced in effected areas. Prime Minister Cimoszewicz repeated today in the Sejm that, in his view, the state of emergency was not needed.

Heated debate followed, with internal affairs minister Leszek Miller trying to answer some charges labelled upon his ministry by the opposition.

Our Warsaw correspondent reports that the death toll in Poland now stands at 43. Meanwhile, communities further North along the raging Odra river are still being hit by a swell of flood water surging towards Germany.

In the neighboring Czech Republic, Agriculture Minister Joseph Lux estimated damage to crops, livestock, equipment and infrastructure at around $400 million. Our correspondent today visited a major Czech tire Factory in Otrokovice that was inundated by the floods and quoted the firm's General Manager saying it would be another eight days before production could resume. The manager said currently only 20 percent of the 3,000 employees were being allowed entry to the factory and only for clean-up work.

In nearby Batov, our correspondent says most residents still can not get back into their homes because of water a meter and half deep.