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7,500 pigs had to be killed because of plague
Three Slovak hostage released in Ingussetia
Vampires gather for first party
Police nab smugglers with 3 kg of uranium
One person dies in gastruck explosion


7,500 pigs had to be killed because of plague

Several thousand pigs have been slaughtered by an as-yet unidentified plague that swept through this village of 1,400 in southern Slovakia in early February. In the meat producer and pig farm Mäsoprodukt, the plague has spread so violently that the firm's employees have had to kill 7,500 pigs. The plague is not isolated in the pig farm but has affected private owners, who also had to put their swine to the knife.The plague's source has baffled veterinarians, hygienists and the town itself. "The source of the plague is unknown so far," said Tekovská Breznica's mayor, Viliam Vendelín. "It could have been brought from other farms." The plague is not harmful to humans, but people can be carriers, specialists said.
The damage in monetary terms is immense, with Vendelín estimating it to be about 20 million Sk. "It may take ten years before we can be pig farming again," he said. "We'll have to burn down the wooden parts of the farm. All the walls will have to be disinfected, and we'll have to pour boiling water on them, repaint them, and disinfect them."



Three Slovak hostage released in Ingussetia

Three Slovak employees of Pozemné Staviteľstvo (PS), a construction firm located in this city of 87,000 in western Slovakia, were freed after being held captive by unknown kidnappers for 127 days in the Russian province of Ingussetia.
Apparently held hostage on Chechen territory since their abduction on October 10, 1996, the three Slovaks - Otto Gyepes, Jaroslav Lenčeš, and Imrich Rigo - commanded a princely sum, as their captors demanded a $300,000 ransom for their return. According František Kukla, PS's director, the company was willing to pay the ransom, but the Ingussetian government was against it. However, later, he said there was no alternative but to fork over the cash. "After exhausting all the possibilities, those involved concluded that nothing remained but to pay the ransom," Kukla explained.
The trio had to spend the holidays uncertain of their fate. "I believed that they would release us by Christmas," said Gyepes. "When it did not happen, I lost all hope." On February 11, however, Lenčeš was freed after 127 days in captivity. But that was bad news for the other two, who didn't know what to think after their comrade was taken away. "I thought that they had shot him," Rigo said.
At three o'clock in the morning two days later, the unknown captors came for Rigo and Gyepes. "I was very scared," Rigo related. "I thought they would kill us. Instead they told us that we were released and on our way to Karabulak," While they all said they were happy to be reunited with their families and some things seem strange and new for them, all three of them agreed about one thing: they will never work abroad again.



Vampires gather for first party

At least 500 bloodthirsty guests from all over Slovakia and abroad are expected to attend the first Vampire's Party in Košice, a city of 240,000 in eastern Slovakia. Organized by the golf club Hrabina, Košice vampire club president Ján Zbojka said the event, to be held at the Hotel Slovan on March 14, was all Count Dracula's idea. "Count Dracula declared himself as the owner of an empty coffin which was found in the historical part of Košice during an archaeological dig last year," Zbojka told The Slovak Spectator. "However, Dracula is sick and tired of all the current bloodshed. He wants to demonstrate the grand fashion of partying that was popular among the upper classes more than 500 years ago."
If party-goers are overwhelmed by their dates, medical assistance will be provided to take one's pulse and perform examinations, Zbojka added. Any dancers turning pale from loss of blood will be able to fill up at special transfusion stations set up for all blood groups. In a thankful departure, wine, not blood, will be served.
Further adding to the weirdness, representatives from insurance companies will be also present, signing contracts and staging drawings for life insurance. The popular Czech singer Lucie Bílá is one pulsating being that has said she will come. The tickets are available at Talianská Reštaurácia, Komenského 31, Košice, (tel.: 622 37 65). Those who cannot afford the 1,200 Sk price can watch the show in front of the hotel on a big video screen.



Police nab smugglers with 3 kg of uranium

Hoping to make some easy money, four Slovaks bungled a sale of 2.86 kilograms alleged to be uranium, and were captured by a special police task force in this central Slovak town of 44,000. According to a police press release, one of the culprits "obtained uranium under as-yet unknown circumstances,'' and was supposed to give the material to three other men who then planned to sell it for about $10,000.
Police detained all four at a parking lot outside a highway restaurant outside the city as they were transferring the uranium from one car to another on February 18.
"They couldn't possibly make as much money as they thought,'' said PeterKovarík, a local police officer who assisted in the arrest. "They apparently didn't know anything about this business. They just thought it would work out somehow,'' Kovarík added the four men were "definitely not a part of a smuggling mafia.''
It seems they weren't professional criminals, either. One of the cars being used by the group had a Swiss license plate, which attracted the police's attention. "Later we found out that the car had been recently bought in Switzerland, and the license plate had not been changed yet," Kovarík said.



One person dies in gastruck explosion

When 12 to 15 meter-high flames started licking the air on February 17, it was a clear sign to firemen that something in Poša, a village of 1,200 near Vranov nad Topľou in eastern Slovakia, went dreadfully wrong.
According to Štefan Muchanič, the director of the Vranov nad Topľou fire department, two relatives of the owner of an automobile transportation company were filling up a Škoda truck from a 5,000 liter tank of gasoline when the explosion occurred. "We think that what happened is that they forgot about the gasoline, and it overflowed. They had an open fire, which caused the explosion."
The first explosion set off a chain reaction in 15 other partially-filled gasoline tanks, creating a flaming tempest by the time firefighters arrived. "Even the veteran firemen were scared and horrified," Muchanič said. "It looked like we were in some bad movie." The older man died a few hours later in the hospital.

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