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Lessons drawn from hurricane Lothar

Lothar caused great damage, but was not an environmental catastrophe Keystone

Hurricane Lothar, which destroyed large swathes of forest five years ago, was not the environmental and economic catastrophe many people feared.

This content was published on November 9, 2004 - 14:01

That's according to the Federal Environment Office, which says more has to be done to protect Switzerland’s forests and help them return to their natural state.

Dubbed “the hurricane of the century”, Lothar struck on December 26, 1999, with winds gusting up to 180 kilometres per hour. The storm caused enormous damage, felling 13 million cubic meters of timber.

In response the government and cantons pledged a total of SFr509.5 million ($430 million) to counter the effects of the destruction. In addition, parliament approved a credit of SFr45 million for a national programme to subsidise use of the resulting wood.

No catastrophe

On Tuesday, the Environment Office said that research had shown that the damage was not as severe as originally feared.

But the economy suffered as a result of a huge increase in the amount of timber on the market, which drove prices down by one third.

The Environment Office said the first lesson to be drawn from the hurricane was the need for greater protection of the forests.

It said that woods should contain a greater mix of different trees to minimise the risk of destruction by storms or pests.

Another recommendation was that government subsidies should be used to promote the sustainability and diversity of the country’s forests.

Between August 2000 and December 2003, the Environment Office paid out SFr 40.3 million to support 3,719 wood-related projects.

A further SFr4 million was spent on indirect measures, such as the quality assurance label for wood heating.

The office said the next few years would show the impact of the subsidy programme on wood energy statistics.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Hurricane Lothar struck in December 1999 causing the deaths of 16 people and destroying 13 million cubic meters of wood.

Following the disaster, parliament approved subsidies to improve the use of wood energy.

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Key facts

Government and cantons approved a credit of SFr509.5 million to deal with the damage caused by the hurricane.
SFr390 million had been spent by the end of last year.

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