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Railways unable to cope with Lothar timber

Attempts to clear Swiss forests of trees knocked down by Hurricane Lothar are grinding to a halt. The federal railways says it will soon no longer have the capacity to transport the timber.

Attempts to clear Swiss forests of trees knocked down by Hurricane Lothar are grinding to a halt. The federal railways says it will soon no longer have the capacity to transport the timber.

Railways and forestry officials are now calling on owners of tracts of forest not to gather more timber than can be transported.

About 14 million tonnes of wood was destroyed by Lothar, which swept through Switzerland on December 26. More than 400,000 tonnes has already been taken away by rail, which is above the annual average, said the railways at a news conference in Berne.

The lion's share has been exported to Italy and Austria.

Forestry officials said part of the problem lay with the efficiency of the clean-up operations. Thanks to modern equipment, six million tonnes has already been cleared and prepared for transport, said Urs Amstutz of the Forestry Association, but contracts have been signed to take away only 1.3 million.

The federal railways has deployed more than 1,000 freight cars to transport the timber and has leased more than 200 others to try to meet the demand.

swissinfo with agencies

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