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Connery shock at scale of disaster

A police demolition expert on his way to blow up a barge torn from its moorings and threatening River Elbe bridges
A police demolition expert on his way to blow up a barge torn from its moorings and threatening River Elbe bridges  

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (CNN) -- Actor Sean Connery, who is on location in Prague to make a film, said he was taken aback by the destruction floodwater caused in the picturesque city but heartened by the response of many to help in the crisis.

"I don't know if the world realises the depths of the disaster," the one-time James Bond said.

"I have to just say how sorry one is to see all this," he said, adding he hoped appeals would be launched to help clean up and repair Prague.

He said he hoped the Czechs were "spirited enough" and had "the right people organised to get Prague back, or attempt to get it back to what it was."

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The response from volunteers in the city had "been really wonderful," he said.

"There were so many people volunteering -- young English-speaking people, Italians, and students -- and I think, there are people coming from over the borders, which is, I think, remarkable."

Connery spoke as international relief agencies swung into action on Thursday to provide the humanitarian aid that will be neccessary to repair the damage caused by Europe's worst floods in decades.

Meanwhile, thousands of ordinary people around the world came forward to ask what they could do to support relief efforts.

A spokeswoman from the International Red Cross told CNN that as there were no official government appeal funds so far, "the best way to get donations to where they were intended" at the moment was to contact the local Red Cross society in the country individuals wished to help.

The EU said on Thursday it would offer the Czech Republic 57.7 million euros ($56.3 million) from two programmes normally dedicated to financing reconstruction projects for countries preparing to join the EU. More money might be available, it added.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said in a statement it was looking at ways to help Germany and Austria, which have also been hit by the floods.

It also said it was considering emergency aid like cash payments and the opening of cereal reserves for farmers whose crops have been destroyed.

Locally in the Czech Republic, the Prague Post launched a flood relief fund for schools and libraries in flood-damaged communities.

The People in Need Foundation is collecting donations in corporation with Czech Television.

The Czech government has asked for emergency foreign aid, requesting drugs, vaccinations and drying equipment such as suction and paddle pumps and dehumidifiers.

The cost to the Czech Republic is expected to at least equal the $1.88 billion from floods in 1997, when nearly 50 people died, and will be a heavy burden for the still relatively poor ex-communist state.

The Czech government called on Thursday for contributions and the Chamber of Commerce called on companies to pay tax down payments early to help finance repair work.

Connery was full of praise for the efforts of volunteers  

Austria's government has drawn up a plan for 650 million euros ($640 million) in direct aid to flood victims, companies and flooded towns and villages.

In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Cabinet on Wednesday approved 200 million euros ($195 million) in emergency aid.

After visiting regions of Saxony on Wednesday, Schroeder said he was appalled at the damage and promised immediate aid.

He has also promised 25 million euros to repair roads, bridges and railways. He also acknowledged the final bill was likely be far higher and said he would make up the difference


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