97 dead in Indonesia, East Timor floods
LEMBATA, Apr 5: Floods and landslides triggered by tropical cyclone Seroja in a cluster of islands in southeast Indonesia and East Timor have killed 97 people, with many still unaccounted for and thousands displaced, officials said on Monday.
At least 70 deaths were reported in several islands in Indonesia's West and East Nusa Tenggara provinces, while 70 others were missing, after the cyclone brought flash floods, landslides and strong winds amid heavy rain over the weekend, disaster agency BNPB said.
In East Timor, which shares the Timor island with Indonesia, at least 27 people were killed by landslides, flash floods and a falling tree, while 7,000 displaced, its government said. On Lembata island, authorities feared bodies had been washed away.
About 30,000 people have been impacted by floods in Indonesia, some already taking shelter in evacuation centres, but rescue operations have been made difficult after five bridges collapsed and falling trees blocked some roads, BNPB spokesman Raditya Jati said. A continuing storm had also halted evacuations in some places, local authorities said.
Hundreds of houses and other facilities such as a solar power plant were damaged, BNPB said. Ships and motor boats sank as the cyclone set off waves as high as 6 metres. Powerful currents continued to flow through villages in the Malaka district on Timor island on Monday, even though the rain had stopped.
Some residents there hauled themselves to their roofs to escape flood water rising to 3-4 metres. President Joko Widodo offered his condolences and ordered speedy disaster relief efforts. The Seroja cyclone hit the Savu sea southwest of Timor island in the early hours of Monday, Indonesia's weather agency said.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo expressed "deepest condolences" over the devastation in the southeast end of the archipelago. "I understand the deep sorrow suffered by our brothers and sisters because of this disaster," he said in a nationwide address.
The European Union said it was ready to offer assistance to poverty-stricken East Timor, officially known as Timor-Leste. -REUTERS