Many tourists still without insurance
AS OF the beginning of July, rescue missions by the Mountain Rescue Service (HZS) in Slovakia are no longer free, meaning that tourists who do not carry commercial insurance will have to pay for any rescue services rendered by the HZS.
According to statistics, only half of those rescued by the Mountain Rescue Service in July had insurance against accidents. An amendment to the Mountain Rescue Service Act took effect last month.
Rescuers went on 44 rescue missions in July, saving 51 people. Service director Jozef Janiga stated at a press conference in early August that the injuries suffered by the victims in most cases could have been avoided.
According to Janiga, while only half of those rescued were insured, the situation is gradually improving. He expects it may take another two years before people get used to insuring themselves before trekking in the mountains.
The service rescued mostly Czech, Slovak and Polish tourists, with the majority of rescues taking place in the High Tatras mountains. According to Janiga, the problem is not that the tourists were irresponsible. "The high accident rate reflects an increase in visitors," he said.
The HZS registered two fatalities in July. In the first month after the amendment took effect, costs amounted to slightly over Sk1 million. Janiga expressed satisfaction with payments for the rescue missions performed, which so far has amounted to over Sk500,000.
Tatras visitor rates influenced by weather
VISITOR NUMBERS in the High Tatras mountains over the weekend of August 11-13 were influenced by bad weather as well as a long weekend in neighbouring Poland, according to a poll of tourists carried out August 11-12 in the Tatras National Park (TANAP) area.
On August 11, when the weather was bad, 10,278 people visited the mountains, while on the following day, thanks to the improved weather, 14,818 visitors came, TANAP spokesman Marian Šturcel told the TASR news wire.
The latter figure was 10-15 percent higher than for the average Saturday, which Šturcel believed was due to the fact there was a bank holiday on August 15 in Poland, encouraging many people to take Monday off and spend four days in the Slovak mountains, especially in the Oravice, Tatranská Javorina and central High Tatras areas.
Among the most visited places was Popradské pleso (Poprad Tarn), Malá and Veľká Studená dolina (Small and Big Cold Valley) and Skalnaté pleso (Rocky Tarn), Šturcel said.
Besides the Polish tourists, visitors included large numbers of Slovaks and Czechs.
A census of tourists in the High Tatras mountains has taken place since 1972. This year's census was carried out at more than 50 places.
Inspectors find clothes that can cause cancer
SLOVAK retail inspectors have banned the sale of five items of children's clothing because they could cause cancer, the Sme daily reported on August 16.
The items found to be harmful included a type of boxer shorts, two types of slips, and a matching top and trouser set for boys.
All the clothes were imported from China, and contained excessive amounts of carcinogenic substances.
The inspectors refused to say where the harmful clothes were found, revealing only that they were discovered both on market stalls and in shops.
Such imports don't have to undergo testing to check for health risks. "[Such] testing is voluntary in the EU. Most importers and traders wait until inspectors appear and carry out checks," said the director of the Textile Chemistry Research Institute, Jozef Šesták.
At the moment, between 20-25 percent of the clothes on sale in Slovakia come from China. According to Šesták, over the last two years, around 50 percent of the clothes that have been found to be harmful in some way have come from Asia, while those from the Czech Republic and Slovakia have made up only 10 percent.
Most of the carcinogenic materials and heavy metals are found in the dyes used in the clothes. "I recommend that when you buy clothes you should wipe them with a handkerchief. If some of the dye comes off on the handkerchief, it's the first signal that something isn't right. Clothes shouldn't even bleed when washed," Šesták said.
Airforce intercepts incommunicado Boeing 575
MIG-29 fighter aircraft had to scramble to intercept a suspicious Boeing 575 passenger airplane that was failing to communicate with the Slovak authorities, Slovak Defence Minister František Kašický announced on August 16.
According to the minister, the Boeing 575 was flying a route from Germany to Bulgaria across three countries, and did not respond to instructions from Slovak air traffic controllers.
The Germany-based NATO Joint Air Operations Centre then asked Slovakia to dispatch fighter aircraft, which were airborne within six minutes.
The airliner, flying at 10,000 metres, stayed on course, so the Slovak jets took no action. "Our aircraft followed it until it left Slovak airspace," Kašický said. "Only Romania was able to establish communication with the plane."
This was Slovakia's first ever launch of fighter aircraft to intercept a suspicious plane. Coincidentally, it occurred the day after a military exercise to practice responses to incursions into Slovak airspace by planes hijacked by terrorists, the TASR news wire wrote.
Suspects Karol Mello...
Child murderers apprehended
POLICE have apprehended three men involved in the gangland murder of a 10 year-old boy and his father's girlfriend in December 2004 in this town near Bratislava.
According to the authorities, a hit was ordered on Juraj Gála, a local businessman and former policeman, by Prievidza underworld boss Karol Mello. It was to be carried out by Branislav Adamčo, Jozef Balogh and Nikola Pajdič of Veľké Kapušany in Eastern
However, police say that instead of Gála, Adamčo by mistake machine-gunned a car driven by
Even after realizing his mistake, police say, Adamčo fired a last few "insurance" rounds into the heads of his victims.
Police President Ján Packa said that all four men had gone into hiding, but announced on August 24 that Adamčo, Balogh and Pajdič had been apprehended.
According to the Nový Čas daily, Juraj Gála refused to cooperate with police in tracking down the murderers, but was taken into custody earlier this year for uttering death threats against his ex-wife. He is now believed to be in the Czech Republic.
...and Jozef Balogh, accused in a double murder from 2004.
photo: Courtesy of Slovak police
Ondrej Ambróz appeared as a co-accused in a murder trial.
The remains of this Škoda were found at a mountain pass near Banská Bystrica. It contained two bodies.
photo: Sme - Ján Krošlák
Another of Miki's entourage found dead
A BURNED-out car abandoned near Banská Bystrica was found to contain the bodies of two murdered men, one of whom appeared as a co-accused in a murder case against Banská Bystrica mob boss Mikuláš Černák.
Ondrej Ambróz, police believe, was killed before his body was planted in the Škoda station wagon, which had Banská Bystrica plates and the image of a black scorpion on the rear bumper.
Along with Černák Ambróz went on trial in the late 1990s for the kidnapping and murder of Polish businessman Grzegorz Szymanek, and was found not guilty for lack of evidence. The Attorney General's Office recently announced it wanted to re-open the case.
Ambróz also cared for Černák's Siberian tigers while the latter serves an eight-year sentence for extortion and awaits trial on several fresh murder charges.
Ambróz cared for the tigers at Černák's pension in Bystrá, which had been signed over into his name, according to the Nový Čas daily.
That same pension used to belong to Marián Karcel, who accused Černák of extorting it from him, but was murdered before he could testify in court.
The second body in the car, that of Michal Pavlovič, a warehouser for a Banská Bystrica auto firm, had been shot before being placed in the car.
Relatives of the two men said they had no idea why they had been killed.
Slovak language course at Matej Bel University
A SLOVAK language summer course for foreigners called the Erasmus International Course (EICL) began at the Faculty of Philology of Matej Bell University (UMB) in Banská Bystrica on August 15.
UMB and the Bratislava-based National Erasmus Organisation are running the summer course for the first time.
"Seventeen students from France, Poland and Finland who signed up for the summer course will attend 75 lessons over the next four weeks. Apart from basic conversation, terminology and dialogues in Slovak, the lessons will also focus on writing and basic information on Slovak grammar," Ivan Šuša from UMB told the TASR news wire.
Apart from the lessons, the organisers of the course have also prepared various trips, sports and cultural activities for the students to areas such as Donovaly, the Špania valley, Banská Štiavnica, Bratislava, and other Slovak towns, villages and holiday resorts.
"If the students pass the final test, they will receive an EICL certificate and will go on to study at Slovak universities. They're interested in studying political science, medicine and law in Slovakia," Šuša said.