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Over 100 dead and dozens missing from floods in Indonesia and East Timor

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At least 113 people have died and several dozen are still missing on April 5 due to flooding and mudslides in Indonesia and East Timor after Cyclone Seroja.

Lembata (Indonesia) (AFP)

Floods and flash floods caused by torrential rains have caused chaos in areas between the Indonesian island of Flores and East Timor, pushing thousands of people to shelters.

The flood overwhelmed dams and inundated thousands of homes.

At least 86 people have died in Indonesia and 71 others are still missing. In neighboring East Timor, at least 27 people have died, most in Dili, the capital.

In the east of the Indonesian island of Flores, many houses, roads and bridges were covered with mud, making it difficult for rescuers to try to reach the worst affected areas.

“Mud and weather conditions are a major challenge, as is the debris that accumulates and makes searching difficult,” said Raditya Jati, spokesperson for the Indonesian Disaster Management Agency.

On Lembata, an island halfway between Flores and Timor, road access was cut, forcing the authorities to deploy machinery to reopen the tracks. Parts of some upland villages have been stranded by landslides.

Basir Langoday, a resident of the island, said he heard calls for help from a house covered in rubble.

“There were four people inside. Three survived, but not the last,” he told reporters.

Basir Langoday and other neighbors did their best to save the man trapped in the wreckage. “He shouted: hurry up, I can’t take it anymore.”

Another inhabitant of this island, Juna Witak, goes to the local hospital to monitor the body of his mother, who died the day before in the floods. They found his remains by the sea.

“There was a great roar and the water swept through the houses, everything,” he explains.

“Need for drugs”

In East Timor, among those who lost their home, there is Epifania Gomes, a mother of four, who took refuge with her whole family in a church near Dili.

“It is difficult to find clean water. We did not wash because there is no shower or bathroom, you have to relieve yourself in the bushes,” he explained to the AFP.

The European Union has offered its help to this small, poor country, officially known as Timor-Leste.

“The catastrophic flooding comes as Timor-Leste struggles to contain the spread of Covid-19 among its population, adding pressure on resources and the people of Timor-Leste,” the bloc said.

Damaged homes in an area affected by flash floods after heavy rains in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia, April 4, 2021.
Damaged homes in an area affected by flash floods after heavy rains in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia, April 4, 2021. Via Reuters

In Indonesia, President Joko Widodo expressed his “condolences” for the devastation in the southeast of the archipelago.

“I understand the immense sorrow of our brothers and sisters after this disaster,” he said in a speech to the nation.

“The evacuees have dispersed everywhere, there are hundreds of them in all the districts, but many people also stayed at home,” said Alfons Hada Bethan, head of the disaster management agency in eastern Flores. . “They need medicine, food, blankets.”

The rains complicate the situation. “We think there are still a lot of people buried, but we don’t know how many,” he said.

Landslides and flash floods are common in the Indonesian archipelago, especially during the rainy season. Conservationists say deforestation favors these disasters.

In January, 40 Indonesians were killed in flooding in the western Javanese city of Sumedang.

The national disaster management agency estimates that 125 million Indonesians, or about half of the archipelago’s population, live in areas at risk of landslides.

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