Counting the cost of the storms

Southern Sweden, battered last week by the heaviest winds in seventy years, is starting to count the cost of the storm damage.

Sweden’s biggest single industry, forestry and paper products, has been hit the hardest, with an estimated 75 million cubic metres of forestry destroyed by the storm. According to Svenska Dagbladet this accounts for almost entire annual harvest, which, in a normal year is usually around 80 million cubic metres.

With over 350,000 people directly involved in the timber industry the devastation reeked on the nursery forest in Småland and Skåne in Southern Sweden alone spells further economic difficulty for an industry already under pressure from Baltic and Asian imports.

The total costs are yet unclear but Sweden’s national finanical paper, Dagens Industri, and southern Sweden’s Sydsvenskan both put the total costs conservatively at over 2 billion Euros.

Steven Wirten of the Forest Industries Federation said at this week’s press conference that Swedish forests now looked “like a war zone”.

“It may take years to clear up the area. We are all certain that prices will fall because of this. It’s too early to estimate by how much.”

It is not just commercial damage. Initally over 400,000 people found themselves without without electricity, television, and in many cases no access to the mobile telephone network. By Friday, almost a week after the storm, 70,000 were still cut off.

Sydkraft, the Swedish electrical giant, has bought in workers from Finaland and Germany to help reconnect those isolated in remote communities.

It is not all bad news however – logistic companies reported a huge demand for transportation to clear the wood away.

And amongst the acres of fallen trees, spring crocuses and snowdrops are appearing some six weeks earlier than normal as Southern Sweden experiences some of it warmest January temperatures on record.

John Rouse

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Sydsvenskan, Dagens Industri