Slovenia puts freak ice storm damage on woods at 194 million euro

LJUBLJANA Wed Feb 19, 2014 8:31am EST

Ice-covered electric power pillar is seen in Postojna February 3, 2014. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic

Ice-covered electric power pillar is seen in Postojna February 3, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Srdjan Zivulovic

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LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Damage wrought on Slovenia's forests during a heavy ice storm earlier this month is estimated at 194 million euros ($266.77 million) and will take months to repair, officials said on Wednesday.

The devastation occurred mostly in west Slovenia as a three-day freak storm brought down electricity lines and trees and coated parked cars, petrol stations and street signs in thick ice.

According to figures issued by Slovenia's forest management agency ZGS, around half a million out of 1.18 million hectares (2.91 million acres) of Slovenia's forests were damaged by the ice storm.

Almost 60 percent of the territory of Slovenia, a small Alpine country squeezed between Austria and the Adriatic Sea, is covered by woods.

Damjan Orazem, the head of ZGS, said around seven million cubic meters of wood stock would have to be felled.

"It is possible that the final (damage) figure will be even higher, as some areas are still inaccessible," he said.

Slovenia's infrastructure minister, Samo Omerzel, said last week the damage inflicted on the country's infrastructure, most notably on electricity lines, railways and roads, amounted to 120 million euros.

The extreme weather conditions came at a bad time for the tiny EU member country, which is already going through the worst economic crisis in its two decades as an independent state.

Slovenia narrowly avoided an international bailout last year and managed to scrape together funds in late 2013 to save its major banks from going bust.

Slovenia plans to start talks soon on "favorable, long-term loans" with the European Investment Bank and the Council of Europe Development Bank to repair the damage.

Local media have reported the government may also apply for funds from the EU's solidarity fund, set up for major natural disasters in member states. ($1 = 0.7272 euros)

(Writing by Igor Ilic in Zagreb; editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Tom Heneghan)

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