WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's forestry authority said Wednesday it will take until 2019 to clear away trees that were broken and felled last weekend by extremely heavy winds in the northwest and central part of the country.
The losses on some 45,000 hectares (111,195 acres) are the worst ever recorded by the national forestry agency founded in 1924. Falling trees also destroyed animal habitats and killed many animals, the State Forests body said Wednesday.
"We are dealing with undoubtedly the biggest disaster in the history of Poland's forestry, and I suspect, also in Europe's forestry," State Forests head Konrad Tomaszewski said, adding that new forests would be planted to replenish the areas.
It will take up to 100 years for the destroyed forests to grow back to the state they were in before the winds hit, said Anna Malinowska, spokeswoman for the forestry authorities.
Footage on TVN24 showed images of huge areas covered with trees lying like matchsticks. Weather forecasts warned Wednesday of more storms coming.
Army troops and firefighters were helping local communities remove fallen trees and secure damaged houses, chiefly in the regions around Gdansk, Torun and Szczecin.
The government has faced criticism that it reacted too slowly and sent the military with aid days after the disaster, in which six people died Friday and Saturday.
The Defense Ministry argued that it acted immediately on a request for help it received from local authorities on Monday.