The Jakarta Post
At least 11 people from three districts in Lanny Jaya regency, Papua, have died after extreme cold weather hit the area earlier this month, a local official said.
Speaking to The Jakarta Post in a phone interview on Tuesday, Lanny Jaya regional administration secretary Christian Siholait said extremely cold temperatures along with hail had occurred in Ku-
yawage, Goa Baliem and West Wano districts from July 3 to 5.
'During the three days, hail continuously fell from morning until evening. At the same time, local residents experienced extreme cold weather as the air temperature dropped to minus 2 degrees Celsius,' he said.
Christian said similar hailstorms had not occurred since 1989, when Lanny Jaya was still a part of the Jayawijaya regency.
Most local residents, he said, were not prepared for such extreme weather.
'It was the first time many locals had experienced such low temperatures in their whole lives,' he said.
'In West Wano district, 11 residents died because they could not stand the extreme temperatures. Meanwhile, many other residents have been suffering from diarrhea after the hail.'
At least 1,200 families live in the three isolated districts, which can only be reached by small aircraft or by walking for two days from the regency's capital city of Tiom.
The local administration, according to Christian, is planning to send medical assistance and food supplies to the three districts in a chartered aircraft on Wednesday, as the hail had also severely damaged residents' farmland and killed a large number of livestock.
'The local residents are not only facing a food crisis but are also vulnerable to diseases,' he said.
Meanwhile, in the neighboring Puncak regency, thousands of people in the Agandugume district have also been struggling with a food crisis with a number of hailstorms having hit the area beginning earlier this month.
'We are currently facing the dry season, the rain has not come for quite a long time. At nights, however, hail falls. Frost has covered residents' plants, like potatoes, tubers and vegetables, leaving them damaged,' Puncak Deputy Regent Repinus Telenggen said on Monday, adding that the food scarcity had forced residents to eat wild ferns in order to survive.
Puncak regional administration, according to Repinus, is planning to send rice stocks to the district but has so far faced difficulties in transporting them due to bad weather and technical constraints.
'We have recently managed to drop only eight sacks of rice to Agandugume as the flight can be only taken once a day due to bad weather,' he said.
Like the three isolated districts in Lanny Jaya, the Agandugume district is located between 2,300 and 2,500 meters above sea level and can only be accessed with small aircraft. The district is situated just below the 4,884-meter Puncak Jaya mountain, one of the world's seven tallest summits.
At noon, the air temperature in the area has been ranging from 10 to 12 degrees Celsius, while at night the temperature can drop to 3 degrees.
The Papua Natural Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head, Didi Agus Prihatno, said he had received reports from the Puncak BPBD about food shortages in Agandugume.
'The latest report confirmed that there are 6,150 people living in three villages that have been recently hit by hail. We have prepared rice and clothes to be sent to the affected areas. However, we are still unable to send them due to bad weather,' he said.
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