Hailstorm ravages crops

Tobacco farmer Kumbati Onem (right) with his family standing at one of his affected gardens at Mala village which was destroyed by hailstorm on Tuesday. – Nationalpic by ELIAS LARI

ALMOST 300 people from a village in Mt Hagen have been affected by a hailstorm that destroyed food gardens, houses and cash crops such as tobacco.
The people affected are from the Jika-Kuipgil clan residing at Mala village, outside Mt Hagen, Western Highlands.
According to the villagers, most people affected were tobacco farmers who depend on their crop to earn a living.
Tobacco farmers Kumbati Onem and Timimenti Rumint said the hailstorm hit their village at around noon on Tuesday and lasted several hours.
They said this was the third hailstorm they had experienced.
Onem said they had not received help from provincial disaster office after the previous incidents.
He estimated that he had lost more than K5,000 after his tobacco garden was destroyed.
“What’s worrying us is the destruction of our tobacco gardens as we do not grow coffee here because of the climate,” he said.
Onem said people had also lost their food gardens and had damaged property as a result of the hailstorm.
Rumints said tobacco farmers sent their crops mainly to markets in Lihir, New Ireland, Western and Rabaul, East New Britain.
He estimated his losses to be as much as K30,000.
Rumints said they had been taken by surprise after experiencing dry weather for almost a month.
Community leaders Kildui Mek and Allan Sani called on the disaster office to assess the damage and arrange for relief for the affected community.
Attempts to contact provincial disaster coordinator Robin Yakamb for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.