Polish forests ravaged by storms
Abrupt storms hit Poland last week, causing substantial damage, killing 6 people and harming 30 more. Hurricane-level gusts of wind caused trees to fall, ravaging whole forests. The level of devastation is unprecedented. State Forests estimate the total area of destroyed forests to be as much as 38 thousand hectares. Over 7.7 million square metres of trees is down.
In the areas affected the most, local authorities created crisis groups that will coordinate the needed actions such as estimating the scale of the damage, clearing roads and securing selected areas. Forests are closed for the public due to the high risk of injury. Another issue is the increased risk of thieves who may want to take advantage of the situation and steal the wood.
The areas which were hit the most by the wind are around Toruń, Gdańsk, Poznań, Szczecin, Wrocław and Łódź. State Forests headquarters in Warsaw held a crisis meeting with the heads of its regional departments. The authorities announced that the clearing up actions may end in 2019. Cleaning up the fallen trees and branches will be very dangerous. Extraordinary security measures and extra training for the clean-up teams are needed. It will take approximately 100 years before a new forest matures. Experts have already called this the biggest catastrophe in the history of Polish forestry.
Fortunately, the fallen trees can be used by the wood industry. State Forests are planning to sell the wood to Polish companies to finance deforestation. The wood cannot be, however, used for construction, as the wood is too damaged. It will be used to produce such materials as fibreboards, wood pellet, charcoal and cellulose products. Wood processing companies say that buying large quantities of the raw material will not be a problem.
The areas hit by the storms were visited by Prime Minister Beata Szydło. She thanked everyone who helped the victims of the disaster. In certain places, thousands of people lost electricity or were cut off completely by trees blocking local roads.