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Lothar to cost government SFr600 million

The Swiss government has been asked to stump up SFr600 million to clear up the destruction left by Hurricane Lothar, which swept through Switzerland just after Christmas.

This content was published on February 1, 2000 - 18:46

The Swiss government has been asked to stump up SFr600 million to clear up the destruction left by Hurricane Lothar, which swept through Switzerland just after Christmas.

The crisis unit set up by the Federal Environment Office to handle the massive clear-up operation presented its proposals at a press conference in Berne. It was the first time a figure had been put on the cost of Lothar.

The crisis unit said SFr420 million would be needed over the next four years to clear woodland of fallen trees, and plant new ones. Another SFr60 million should be made available in the shape of short-term loans.

It said a further SFr110 million should be used to repair infrastructure, especially damaged roads and railways, and to replace fruit orchards destroyed by the hurricane.

The cabinet will give its response in mid-February, while parliament will vote on the credit during its session in March.

The federal authorities provided some SFr400 million in the aftermath of Hurricane Vivian, the last major storm to hit Switzerland, in 1990.

The crisis unit said priority should be given to protecting trees that were still standing. It said dead wood should only be cleared if there was a risk of further damage. Of the 12 million cubic metres of forest destroyed by Lothar, about two thirds will be cleared and a third left where it lies, according to the head of the unit, Werner Schärer.

"It's necessary that the dangerous trees are removed," Schärer said. "It's also important to protect the forests from insects, which could damage a lot more trees than the storm did."

He also said that subsidised regional departments would be created to handle the sale of timber. The wood will be sold at a fixed price. SFr26 million will be used for storing some of the timber, to prevent a glut of wood on the market, while SFr20 million will be devoted to improving the long-term commercial potential of wood.

Hansruedi Streiff, head of the Sawmill and Timber Trade Association, said the crisis team had acted quickly to identify the most important measures. "But we have not done everything. Now it's up to the cantons to decide on additional measures," he said.

The crisis unit said it had also discussed the question of compensating the owners of private forests, but had failed to reach agreement. It recommended that the government find a solution so that help could be given to the hardest-hit people, especially those whose livelihoods depend on it.

From staff and wire reports.

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