Clean-up operation could take two weeks.

Madrid has been asked to officially declare the Balearics a disaster zone because of the extensive damage caused by the hurricane-force winds and torrential rains which battered the region over the weekend. Balearic Interior Minister Josep M. Costa said that the decision was made late on Monday night during the local government's emergency meeting and that yesterday morning, official notification was handed over to the central government delegation in Palma. Costa said that the Balearic government hopes Madrid will study the situation and declare the region a disaster zone as soon as possible. The Interior Minister, considering the fact that the storm claimed two lives in Majorca and that the costs of the damage are running in to thousands of millions of pesetas, is confident that central government will act swiftly. The Balearic government wants to see emergency funding released by Madrid to help the local authorities cover the cost of the clean-up operation and repairing the damage. But while Madrid consider the Balearics' application, the Council of Majorca has gathered an extra 200 men and women, split into 50 units, to help clean up areas of the north of island worst hit by the storms. The Balearic Minister for the Environment, Margalida Rosselló, said yesterday that as many as 62'000 trees were uprooted and blown across the Balearics by the worst winds to have hit the islands in over a decade. The Minister, opening the third Balearic Environment Conference yesterday, said that while the figure is a mere estimation, what has already been confirmed is that the hurricane-force winds and torrential rains caused widespread damage to the Balearics' forests.On the positive side, the Minister highlighted the fact that the hundreds of litres of rain which fell over the weekend have topped up Majorca's water levels and should this winter continue to be a wet one, the worst Balearic drought for the past 100 years may finally come to an end. The Council of Majorca's special clean-up units will be working in co-ordination with the environmental protection department Ibanat's 13 brigades which have a total of 80 environmental agents on the ground in the Balearics helping the clean-up operation.


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