Tropical cyclone Seroja thundered Indonesia and East Timor on Monday after heavy rains triggered floods and landslides that have killed at least 113 people and left dozens more.
The storm filled strong winds and rain and increased more misery over the Southeast Asian countries after Sunday’s catastrophe that turned small communities into wastelands of mud, uprooted trees and forced thousands of people to shelter.
Rainfall is expected the next day when the storm triggers sea waves as high as six meters (20 feet), Indonesia’s disaster agency said.
The cyclone, which took off as it moved towards the west coast of Australia, hindered efforts to reach captured survivors.
At least 86 people have been killed in Indonesia, with a further 71 missing, while 27 have died in East Timor, a small peninsula nation of 1.3 million located between Indonesia and Australia.
The capital Dili was flooded, with the front of the presidential palace turned into a mud pit.
Disaster flood in Adonara, Indonesia April 4, 2021 RIP for those who have lost their lives. Climate change is exacerbating floods. Do not build near river plains Build concrete or heavy wooden walls to protect your home from those who can. https://t.co/1n5WsQkzdG @YouTube
– Gordon Chamberlain (@GChamberlainAZ) April 5, 2021
Swept down a mountainside
In Indonesia’s remote East Flores municipality, mud washed mud over homes, bridges and roads.
Pictures from Indonesia’s search and rescue agency showed workers digging up mud-covered corpses before placing them in body bags.
On Lembata, an island east of Flores, parts of some villages were swept down a mountainside and taken to the sea shore.
Shortly after flooding began in Basir Langoday’s district early in the morning, he heard cries for help from a nearby home covered in rubble.
“There were four of them inside. Three survived but the other did not succeed,” he told reporters.
Langoday and his friends climbed to try to save the captured man before he was crushed to death.
“He said ‘hurry up, I can not hold on any longer,'” Langoday added.
Juna Witak, another Lembata resident, joined her family at a local hospital crying over his mother’s body, which was killed in a flood on Sunday. Her body was found at the beach.
“There was a rumbling sound and the floods swept home, everything,” Witak said.
‘Medicine, food, blankets’
The European Union said it was ready to offer aid to poverty-stricken East Timor, officially known as East Timor.
“The catastrophic floods come at a time when East Timor is working hard to curb the spread of Covid-19 among its population, putting a significant additional strain on both resources and the Timorese people,” the EU said.
Among those left homeless after the disaster was the mother of four Epifania Gomes, who took shelter with her husband and family on the porch of a locked church near Dili.
“It is difficult to find clean water. We have not bathed because there is no shower or toilet, so we had to defecate in the bushes,” she told AFP.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo expressed his “deepest condolences” over the devastation at the southeastern end of the archipelago.
Thousands have flocked to temporary shelters, where there is a shortage of medicine, food and blankets, says Alfons Hada Bethan, head of East Flore’s disaster agency.
Heavy rains challenged efforts to find some survivors.
“We suspect many people are buried but it is not clear how many are missing,” Bethan said.
In Lembata, local officials were forced to use heavy equipment to reopen the roads.
Pictures from the island showed barefoot locals wading through mud and previously collapsed houses to evacuate the victims on makeshift stretchers.
Deadly landslides and floods are common over the Indonesian archipelago during the rainy season.
In January, floods hit the Indonesian city of Sumedang in West Java, killing 40 people.
And in September last year, at least 11 people were killed in a landslide in Borneo.
The Disaster Management Agency has estimated that 125 million Indonesians – almost half of the country’s population – live in areas at risk of landslides.
Disasters are often caused by deforestation, according to environmental activists.