At least 113 people have died and dozens more were missing after Cyclone Seroja hit Indonesia and East Timor, triggering flash floods and landslides that uprooted trees, blocked roads and turned small communities into wastelands of mud.
Indonesia’s BNPB disaster agency said on Monday that at least 86 people were dead and 71 were missing in the country’s West and East Nusa Tenggara provinces.
More than 400 people were evacuated and thousands more affected, it said.
Several bridges also collapsed and at least one ship sank in high waves triggered by the Cyclone, it added.
In East Timor, which shares the Timor island with Indonesia, 27 people were killed by landslides, flash floods and a falling tree, mostly in the capital Dili. More than 1,500 people were evacuated, Main Director of Civil Protection, Ismael da Costa Babo, told reporters.
‘Medicine, food, blankets’
In Indonesia’s remote East Flores municipality, mud washed over homes, bridges and roads, while strong waves prevented search teams from accessing the hardest-hit areas. On Lembata, an island east of Flores, parts of some villages were swept down a mountainside by torrents of mud and carried to the shore of the ocean.
Soon after flash floods began tearing into resident Basir Langoday’s district in the early morning hours, 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.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo offered his condolences and urged residents to follow the direction from field officers during extreme weather.
“I have ordered for disaster relief efforts to be conducted quickly and well,” he said in remarks streamed online.
Across the region, scared residents have flocked to temporary shelters or taken refuge in what was left of their homes.
“The evacuees are spread out. There are hundreds in each sub-district but many others are staying at home,” said Alfons Hada Bethan, the head of the East Flores disaster agency. “They need medicine, food, blankets.”
The Seroja cyclone hit the Savu sea southwest of Timor island in the early hours of Monday, Indonesia’s weather agency said. Within the next 24 hours, the cyclone’s intensity could strengthen, bringing yet more rain, waves and winds, although it was moving away from Indonesia, the agency said.