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Roads become impassable in Karula National Park

In addition to power cuts, residents of Karula National Park must literally cut their way out of home this winter as heavy snow is causing trees to fall on the roads.

While Estonia's smallest Karula National Park near Valga might look picturesque covered in snow, the locals need to carry power tools to get around.

Seventy-year-old schoolteacher Erika drives around with a battery-powered chainsaw next to her on the passenger seat. With it, she makes short work of trees that have fallen across her path, while the situation is far from funny.

Trees are constantly falling on or are bent over roads, and the locals have no one expect themselves to rely on if they want to get around.

"How else am I going to get anywhere? I spent an hour sawing my way out this morning, between Rebasemõisa and Kolski. I came to work an hour late," Erika Silberg said.

There are households in Karula without power and cell coverage. While many use diesel generators to generate power, getting out to buy more fuel might prove impossible as the state highway is also littered with fallen trees. The school bus has been unable to operate normally for weeks.

"Children call home and say that it looks like the bus isn't coming. We start up the car, put the chainsaw in the trunk and take the kids to school. But we've let them stay home the last couple of days because we cannot spend all that time sawing in the mornings," local resident Meelika Hainsoo said.

The Rescue Board told ERR that it has responded to fallen trees in Valga County over 300 times between November and now. On Wednesday, rescuers removed almost 40 trees on a 500-meter road section. There were just 97 calls to the same area during the same period last year.

The Transport Administration also admits the situation in Karula is extraordinary, while the agency lacks the resources necessary to survey the roads and inform people of problems every morning.

"Our resources are inevitably limited. Because it is a national park, there are limitations to how many trees can be felled as a precaution," said Janar Taal, head of the southern branch of the agency's road maintenance department.

Taal said that the administration has a single brigade in Valga County and needs to involve additional personnel in case of major work. A campaign to fix up roadsides and cut down dangerous trees was launched in Karula on Thursday.

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Editor: Marko Tooming, Marcus Turovski

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