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Lothar impact not as bad as expected

Ten million trees were damaged by hurricane Lothar. Many have still to be removed Keystone

One year after the "storm of the century", Lothar, the government says efforts to clear damaged forests have been progressing well and that the slump in timber prices had not been as serious as expected.

At a press conference in Bern on Thursday, the federal environment agency said that the clearing of the forests was already very far advanced.

Lothar ravaged Switzerland on December 26, 1999, felling more than 10 million trees over a surface area of 46,000 hectares. The destruction is the worst ever recorded in Swiss forests, and represents the average wood harvest over three years.

The government estimates the damage to the forests at between SFr750 and 800 million. However, the total cost of the storm, including destruction to buildings and other structures, is put at SFr1.74 billion.

Switzerland’s federal forestry director, Werner Schärer, said good progress had been made in getting the forests back in shape. “Of the 12.5 million cubic metres of timber that fell, eight million have already been cleared away,” he said.

Another 2.5 million cubic metres of wood will be left to rot on the forest floor, while the rest will be cleared away this winter.

The forestry authorities added that although the price of wood had dropped by 30 per cent in the wake of the storm, it had remained stable after that. They said there were now signs that prices were beginning to rise again.

The authorities emphasised that despite the devastation caused by Lothar, it offered them a chance to learn important lessons about protecting people and forests, in order to be better prepared for Switzerland’s next big storm.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR