An unusually powerful hailstorm swept through parts of Armenia late on Sunday, destroying crops in about two dozen villages and stripping most local residents of their main source of income for this year.
The hailstones were so big that they punctured greenhouses in some of the villages located in the Aragatsotn and Armavir provinces west of Yerevan. They were aggravated by violent winds that toppled power poles and left several communities without electricity.
“I was going to harvest 500 kilograms of grapes this fall. Now I’m not sure that I will get even one-tenth of that,” Sahak Asatrian, farmer in the Aragatston village of Voskevaz, said as he showed serious damaged caused to his vineyard.
“I also have a fruit orchard up there,” Asatrian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “It too was destroyed.”
“One year’s worth of our income is gone,” grimly noted a woman also residing in Voskevaz.
The damage to agriculture was just as severe in Armavir villages. “It was like a hurricane,” said one farmer in the fruit-growing area. “I lived in Siberia for seven years and never saw such a thing.”
At least some of the affected villages were supposed to be protected by nearby hail cannons installed by the central and local governments in recent years. But they proved of little or no use against the hail for reasons that were not immediately clear.
“If our hail cannons had worked a large part of our harvest would have been saved,” said Gohar Khachatrian, a Voskevaz resident.
The farmers lost the source of not only their income but also money which they planned to spend on repaying their expensive loans extended by commercial banks. “They should at least freeze our bank debts,” said one of them.
Armenian Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian visited several hailstorm-hit villages on Monday. Karapetian told local residents that he will set up a task force that will calculate the damage caused by the hailstorm and submit compensation proposals to the government
Many villagers were skeptical, however, arguing that government compensations paid to them have always been very modest in the past.