Around Slovakia

Slovak singer in critical condition
"Fairly freakish" weather
Musical birds on pause
Plane crashes en route to Poland
Lexa offended by invitation

Singer Jožo Ráž is near death.
photo: TASR

Slovak singer in critical condition

Jožo Ráž, the lead singer of the 80's Slovak band 'Elán' and former media adviser to Vladimír Mečiar, suffered serious injuries when the Yamaha motorcycle he was riding was struck by a German driver in an Opel on June 21. The accident, which occurred on Vajanského Nábrežie in Bratislava, left the singing star with serious head and forehead injuries and a broken nose, right tibia and left wrist.
The police said that the German driver had not been drinking alcohol, but added that he had neglected to "give way to Raž" at a tram crossing. Ráž was briefly transported to Ružinov Hospital before he was moved to the neuro-surgery department at Kramáre Hospital. Doctors there labelled his condition as "critical".
The music group Elán was arguably the most popular Czechoslovak band in the 1980's. After a few unsuccessful albums in the early 1990's, the band split-up, but have occasionally been spotted at various concerts performing their popular hits.

"Fairly freakish" weather

High winds, heavy rains and record-cold temperatures on Tuesday, June 22 caught the nation by surprise and snarled traffic, shut down railway services, and blew trees down with gusts reaching 120 kilometres per hour, said Martin Benko of the Slovak Hydro-Meteorological Institute in Bratislava.
According to Benko, Tuesday's weather was "fairly freakish". Bratislava recorded a high temperature of 10 degrees Celsius, easily breaking the 1956 record for a high temperature of 15.1 degrees. In the cities, he added, wind gusts raged from 72 to 90 kph while they topped out at 120 kph in the mountainous areas. The high winds blew mud and tree branches onto roads and felled trees in the Nitra, Banská Bystrica and Bratislava regions, said Renáta Domčeková of Stella Servis, a private traffic-related information service in Bratislava. As a result, Slovak railway transport was temporarily stopped and access to many highways was restricted.
The June 22 storm also brought heavy rain to the regions, which resulted in wide-spread flooding and prompted the Slovak Armed Forces to prepare for emergency clean-up and rescue activities. The Trenčín, Banská Bystrica, Žilina and Nitra areas received rain in excess of 55 millimetres and were reported to have been hardest hit by the floods. The persistent rain has flooded streets, gardens, cellars and homes while some dams reported dangerously high levels.

Musical birds on pause

According to Slovak weather-lore, "Matej (February 24) gives whistles to the birds and John (June 24) takes them back." Miroslav Šaniga, animal researcher at the Forest Ecology Institute in Staré Hory, said that the folklore has rung true this year as many birds in the mountainous Low Fatra region have concluded their spring-time singing exactly on John's cue.
Birds wintering in Slovakia, Šaniga explained, usually begin their warbling in February, sing the loudest in May, then fall silent by the third week of June. The male birds, he said, find themselves preoccupied with food gathering for their new offspring which cuts in on their free time to harmonise in the forest. Šaniga added that the energy-draining moulting process the birds undergo at this time often exhausts them to the point where singing is simply out of the question.
For bird-music lovers, though, Šaniga had good news: come September, the music will return. Their song, however, will be "more subdued than in the spring," he said. "The attentive listener can catch the bird's sorrow at the passing of summer."

Plane crashes en route to Poland

A single-engine sporting plane, the 'Socata Trinidada', crashed on the morning of June 20 near the village of Kunerad in the Žilina Region. The four-man crew - two Slovaks and two Poles - all survived although one of the Poles was seriously injured with second and third degree burns and a broken leg. The others incurred scratches and first-degree burns and were all treated at Žilina Hospital, where they were transported by helicopter.
According to Miroslav Martoň of the Žilina Regional Fire Protection Office, the plane dropped into the forest, shattered, and started to burn. The accident cut a swath in the forest 40 metres long and 15 metres wide. The crashed plane, which took off at Sliač Airport and was headed to Poland, was seen by a tourist in the area who called for help.

Lexa offended by invitation

Former Slovak Secret Service director and HZDS MP Ivan Lexa expressed his anger at the government for sending him an invitation to the presidential inauguration even though he could not go due to the fact that he is in prison. Lexa said that the invitation was a "brutal and unforgivable" act and showed that the government did not hold an "un-biased" view of him.
In April and May, Lexa had complained that the government was not sending him all government documents entitled to him as a member of parliament. Since being imprisoned April 15, Lexa has also complained that he can not buy his favourite brand of cigarettes, that he does not get enough showers, that he has three cell-mates, that other inmates make fun of him, and that he does not have a television set.

Compiled from TASR
by Chris Togneri

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