LEMBATA: Tropical cyclone Seroja pounded Indonesia and East Timor on Monday after torrential rains triggered floods and landslides that have killed at least 113 people and left dozens more missing.
Packing heavy winds and rain, the storm heaped more misery on the Southeast Asian nations after Sunday’s disaster turned small communities into wastelands of mud, uprooted trees and forced thousands of people into shelters.
Downpours are expected over the next day as the storm triggers offshore waves as high as six metres (20 feet), Indonesia’s disaster agency said.
The cyclone, which was picking up strength as it moved towards the west coast of Australia, hampered efforts to reach trapped survivors.
At least 86 people have been killed in Indonesia, with another 71 missing, while 27 have died in East Timor, a tiny half-island nation of 1.3 million that lies between Indonesia and Australia.
Its capital Dili was inundated, with the front of its presidential palace transformed into a mud pit.
In Indonesia’s remote East Flores municipality, torrents of mud washed over homes, bridges and roads.
Images from Indonesia’s search and rescue agency showed workers digging up mud-covered corpses before placing them in body bags.
On Lembata, an island east of Flores, parts of some villages were swept down a mountainside and carried to the shore of the ocean.
Soon after flash floods began tearing into resident Basir Langoday’s district in the early morning, he heard screams for help from a nearby home covered in rubble.
“There were four of them inside. Three survived but the other one didn’t make it,” he told reporters.
Langoday and his friends scrambled to try and save the trapped man before he was crushed to death.
“He said ‘hurry, I can’t hold on any longer,” Langoday added.
Juna Witak, another Lembata resident, joined his family at a local hospital where they wept over the corpse of his mother, who was killed in a flash flood Sunday. Her body was found by the seashore.
“There was a rumbling sound and the floods swept away homes, everything,” Witak said.
The European Union said it was ready to offer assistance to poverty-stricken East Timor, officially known as Timor-Leste.
“The catastrophic floods come at a time when Timor-Leste is working hard to contain the spread of Covid-19 among its population, putting a considerable additional strain both on resources and on the Timorese people,” the EU said.
Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2021