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Czechs count cost of future flood protection

THE CZECH Republic will need to spend billions of pounds to protect its road network against the sort of flooding that devastated central Europe last month.

So far the Czech government has allocated CzK3.3bn (£68M) for pavement repairs and £15M for bridges. Initial reports from the ministry of transport & communication said 30 motorway and trunk road bridges had been badly damaged or washed away and 120km of pavement wrecked.

On secondary roads 136 bridges and 780km of pavement were affected. Damage ranges from erosion of hard shoulders and subsidence of bridges to total washouts of structures or sections of road.

Jiri Petrak, managing director of Mott MacDonald's Prague office, estimated it would cost £2M/km to provide highways with piled foundations capable of withstanding flooding. This puts a price tag of £1.83bn on pavement repairs for the damage recorded so far.

But data on destruction wrought by the flood has been collated only for sections of road between urban areas. The true scale is expected to be revealed as much worse after local authorities have submitted damage reports to the ministry of transport, said Czech highways agency chief Frantisek Baroch.

Further subsidence of roads and bridges is expected after the floodwaters have receded.

It could take as long as two years to put things right. Less than a third of the country's damaged roads are expected to be back in operation before the end of this year, said Baroch.

National and regional railways were widely disrupted, with track washed away and bridge foundations suspected to have been undermined by scour.

Much of the centre of Prague was inundated when the River Vltava burst its banks, flooding the Czech capital's metro system.

In many parts of the city flood defences had been raised by 600mm to cope with greater than 1:100 year events. The Vltava overtopped even these, submerging Prague's streets in more than 2m of mud-laden water.

A quarter of flooded buildings may have to be demolished because they are so badly damaged, the government said. Across the country, 70,000 people were evacuated - 17,000 in Prague alone.

The scale of flooding took the city by surprise. Initial predictions were that the river would reach a 1:20 year height. This was later raised to 1:50 and then a 1:100 year event. Water flow in the river was recorded at 5,300m 3/s, compared with its average flow rate of 147m 3/s.

As GE went to press the waters in Prague were subsiding but problems were still being felt on the River Elbe in Germany.

Dresden was one of the worst affected cities.

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