Floods, landslides, kill dozens in Indonesia and East Timor

Remigio Civitarese
Aprile 5, 2021

This handout photo taken on April 4, 2021 and released by the Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) shows the aftermath of a flash flood in the village of Lamanele on East Flores, where at least 23 people were killed and two missing after early morning flash floods.

At least 21 people had also died in East Timor, said an official in the tiny half-island nation that lies between Indonesia and Australia.

Sparked by torrential rain, the deluge and subsequent landslides sent thousands fleeing into shelters as dams overflowed and their homes were submerged.

"Four sub-districts and 7 villages have been impacted".

"There are 55 dead, but this number is very dynamic and will definitely change, while some 42 people are still missing", Indonesian Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Raditya Djati told broadcaster MetroTV.

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.

"We are now focusing on elderly victims, children and pregnant women to be taken to a safe place", it quoted Mr Joaquim Gusmao, the state secretary for civil protection, as saying.

Agustinus Payong Boli, deputy head of the East Flores government, said evacuations had to be paused because of the strong storm and a lack of suitably heavy equipment.

She warned that the cyclone could trigger tidal waves up to 13 feet on Sumba, Flores and Rote islands in East Nusa Tenggara province, and up to 19.6 feet in the southern part of the province and in the Banda Sea and Indian Ocean.

Injured victims have been evacuated to neighbouring villages that were unaffected by the flash floods, as well as local hospital and health facilities.

Images from the island showed barefoot locals wading through mud and past collapsed houses to evacuate victims on makeshift stretchers.

Severe flooding also has been reported in Bima, a town in the neighbouring province of West Nusa Tenggara, forcing almost 10,000 people to flee, Jati said.

Dams in four sub-districts also overflowed, submerging almost 10,000 houses in Bima following a nine-hour downpour, said Jati.

Landslides and flash floods are not uncommon across the Indonesian archipelago during the rainy season.

January saw flash floods hit the Indonesian town of Sumedang in West Java, killing 40 people.

That disaster on Lembata island killed at least 11, while at least 16 others were still buried under tons of the solid lava, Jati said.

The country's disaster agency has estimated that 125 million Indonesians - almost half of the country's population - live in areas at risk of landslides The disasters are often caused by deforestation, according to environmentalists.

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