Heavy rains trigger floods and landslides in Indonesia and East Timor
Tropical cyclone Seroja struck Indonesia and East Timor Monday after torrential rains triggered floods and landslides that have killed at least 91 people and left dozens 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 and 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 toward the west coast of Australia, hampered efforts to reach trapped survivors.
Indonesia’s disaster agency said at least 70 people have been killed, with another 70 missing.
In East Timor, at least 21 people have been killed according to an official in the tiny half-island nation of 1.3 million that lies between Indonesia and Australia.
Many of the deaths were in East Timor’s inundated capital Dili, where the front of the presidential palace was transformed into a mud pit.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo expressed “deepest condolences” over the devastation in the southeast end of the archipelago.
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.
Across the region, residents have flocked to temporary shelters or taken refuge in what was left of their homes.
Rescuers have been searching for dozens of people still missing after floods and landslides swept away villages in Indonesia and East Timor, killing more than 150 people and leaving thousands more homeless.