Thunderstorms cost Estonia millions

  • 2001-07-26
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - The thunderstorms that struck Estonia on July 15 to 20 caused millions of kroons in losses and took two lives.

In the Ida Virumaa region in northeastern Estonia more than 200 trees fell, damaging cars. A young woman on vacation with her family at Lake Kurtna in northern Estonia was killed by a falling tree on July 16, and a boy of 11 was electrocuted the following evening when he touched power lines brought down in the southern town of Valga.

In the central Estonian region of Jogevamaa three cars were damaged. A child in one of the cars was injured.

The northern region of Laanemaa suffered the most damage.

According to the press department of the Estonian power company Eesti Energia, the storms cut power all over Estonia, requiring 18.5 million kroons ($1.03 million) and six days to fix. The main power lines were restored by July 21, but many consumers had to spend up to a week without electricity.

Eesti Energia estimates that fallen trees damaged 72 kilometers of power lines.

The power breaks also damaged the lines of Eesti Telefon, Uninet and EMT.

While Eesti Energia was restoring the power lines, the government was worrying about how to compensate those who suffered.

"Government aid might be allocated for people who had their houses damaged," he said.

The tires of an Estonian Air aircraft flying from Vilnius to Tallinn burst on landing at Tallinn Airport on the evening of July 16, but no one was injured in the accident.

The tires of both wheels on the left side of the Fokker 50 aircraft burst when the plane was landing. The reason for the accident was given as difficult landing conditions due to a thunderstorm that caused an electrical fault in the wheels' anti-blocking system.

The runway was closed for more than an hour until the wheels of the plane were replaced and incoming flights were redirected to Helsinki. The carrier's aviation safety commission has started an investigation.

Interior Affairs Minister Tarmo Loodus accused the Estonian Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology of foot dragging in informing people about the approaching storms.

Jaan Saar, the director of the institute, replied that with the equipment the institute currently works with it is impossible to forecast weather correctly.

"We can inform the rescue department of coming storms one hour before (they hit)," said Saar. That is not enough, however, as storms can change direction in just 30 minutes.

The storms have also brought in hundreds of claims to insurance companies. Sampo insurance claims-handling manager Urmas Saar told the Baltic News Service that Sampo registered 130 claim damages from the storms.

"According to preliminary estimates, the total sum of the claims is around 3.5 million kroons," he said.

But taken separately the damages are not enormous, mostly broken windows and roofs. "It's not a big sum for an insurance company," he promised.

Bico-Leks non-life insurance specialist Reno Marska said his company is currently handling 26 cases of damages with the claims running to about 1.5 million kroons.