Flash floods and mudslides kill at least 86, leave thousands homeless, in Indonesia and East Timor

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Rescuers were searching for dozens of people still missing on Tuesday after floods and landslides swept away villages in Indonesia and East Timor, killing at least 86 people and leaving thousands more homeless.

Torrential rains from Tropical Cyclone Seroja turned small communities into wastelands of mud, uprooted trees and sent around 10,000 people fleeing to shelters across the neighbouring Southeast Asian nations.

Indonesia’s disaster management agency said it had recorded 86 deaths in a cluster of remote islands near East Timor, where another 34 have been officially listed as dead since the disaster struck on Sunday.  

Rescuers were searching for dozens of people still missing on Tuesday after floods and landslides swept away villages in Indonesia and East Timor, killing at least 86 people and leaving thousands more homeless

Rescuers were searching for dozens of people still missing on Tuesday after floods and landslides swept away villages in Indonesia and East Timor, killing at least 86 people and leaving thousands more homeless

Torrential rains from Tropical Cyclone Seroja turned small communities into wastelands of mud, uprooted trees and sent around 10,000 people fleeing to shelters across the neighbouring Southeast Asian nations

Torrential rains from Tropical Cyclone Seroja turned small communities into wastelands of mud, uprooted trees and sent around 10,000 people fleeing to shelters across the neighbouring Southeast Asian nations

Indonesia's disaster management agency said it had recorded 86 deaths in a cluster of remote islands near East Timor, where another 34 have been officially listed as dead since the disaster struck on Sunday

Indonesia’s disaster management agency said it had recorded 86 deaths in a cluster of remote islands near East Timor, where another 34 have been officially listed as dead since the disaster struck on Sunday

Authorities revised down a higher death toll for Indonesia, citing miscommunication with local agencies.

But search and rescue teams there were racing to find more than 100 people still missing and using diggers to clear mountains of debris.

The storm swept buildings in some villages down a mountainside and to the shore of the ocean on Lembata island, where some small communities have been wiped off the map.

‘This area will never be inhabited again,’ said Lembata district official Eliyaser Yentji Sunur, referring to a flattened part of Waimatan village.

‘We won’t let people live here. Like it or not, they’ll have to relocate.’

Search and rescue teams in the affected areas are racing to find more than 100 people still missing and using diggers to clear mountains of debris

Search and rescue teams in the affected areas are racing to find more than 100 people still missing and using diggers to clear mountains of debris

The storm swept buildings in some villages down a mountainside and to the shore of the ocean on Lembata island, where some small communities have been wiped off the map

The storm swept buildings in some villages down a mountainside and to the shore of the ocean on Lembata island, where some small communities have been wiped off the map

Waimatan resident Onesimus Sili said floods early on Sunday destroyed his community before anyone knew what was happening.

‘Around midnight, we heard a very loud rumbling sound and we thought it was a nearby volcano erupting,’ he told AFP.

‘By the time we realised that it was a flash flood, the houses were already gone.’

Authorities in both nations were scrambling to shelter evacuees while trying to prevent any spread of Covid-19.

On Tuesday, East Timor recorded its first virus death – a 44-year-old woman – since the pandemic broke out last year.

The tiny half-island nation of 1.3 million sandwiched between Indonesia and Australia, officially known as Timor-Leste, quickly shut down its borders to avoid a widespread outbreak that threatened to overwhelm its creaky health care system.

But the disaster has heightened fears of a spike in cases as thousands cram into shelters across Timor’s inundated capital Dili and elsewhere.

Authorities in both Indonesia and East Timor were scrambling to shelter evacuees while trying to prevent any spread of Covid-19 after flash floods hit on Sunday

Authorities in both Indonesia and East Timor were scrambling to shelter evacuees while trying to prevent any spread of Covid-19 after flash floods hit on Sunday

On Tuesday, East Timor recorded its first virus death - a 44-year-old woman - since the pandemic broke out last year. But the disaster has heightened fears of a spike in cases as thousands cram into shelters across Timor's inundated capital Dili and elsewhere (pictured, a flood-affected village in Indonesia)

On Tuesday, East Timor recorded its first virus death – a 44-year-old woman – since the pandemic broke out last year. But the disaster has heightened fears of a spike in cases as thousands cram into shelters across Timor’s inundated capital Dili and elsewhere (pictured, a flood-affected village in Indonesia)

Local officials in Lembata, East Nusa Tenggara province, were bracing for its meagre health facilities to be overwhelmed as the number of injured coming from isolated villages soars

Local officials in Lembata, East Nusa Tenggara province, were bracing for its meagre health facilities to be overwhelmed as the number of injured coming from isolated villages soars

Many residents who survived the flash floods and mudslides have been left with severe injuries including broken bones because they were hit by rocks, logs, and debris

Many residents who survived the flash floods and mudslides have been left with severe injuries including broken bones because they were hit by rocks, logs, and debris

Local officials in Lembata were bracing for its meagre health facilities to be overwhelmed as the number of injured coming from isolated villages soars.

‘These evacuees fled here with just wet clothes on their backs and nothing else,’ said the area’s deputy mayor, Thomas Ola Longaday.

‘They need blankets, pillows, mattresses and tents.’

There was also a dire shortage of trained doctors.

‘We don’t have enough anaesthesiologists and surgeons, but we’ve been promised that help will come,’ Longaday said.

‘Many survivors have broken bones because they were hit by rocks, logs, and debris.’

The bodies of three people were recovered after being swept away by floods in the village of Oyang Barang, Indonesia, where 40 houses were also destroyed

The bodies of three people were recovered after being swept away by floods in the village of Oyang Barang, Indonesia, where 40 houses were also destroyed

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he had ordered his cabinet ministers and the chiefs of the military, police and disaster agency to carry out emergency response measures and search and rescue operations as quickly as possible

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he had ordered his cabinet ministers and the chiefs of the military, police and disaster agency to carry out emergency response measures and search and rescue operations as quickly as possible

Tropical Cyclone Seroja has produced high waves, strong winds and heavy rains for the past three days and its effects were expected to last until Friday

Tropical Cyclone Seroja has produced high waves, strong winds and heavy rains for the past three days and its effects were expected to last until Friday

Extreme weather has also caused tens more deaths in East Timor (pictured), but rescue efforts in the remote island nation have been hampered by damaged bridges and roads

Extreme weather has also caused tens more deaths in East Timor (pictured), but rescue efforts in the remote island nation have been hampered by damaged bridges and roads

Nearby in East Flores municipality, torrents of mud washed over homes, bridges and roads.

Earlier images from Indonesia’s search and rescue agency showed workers digging up mud-covered corpses before placing them in body bags.

Hospitals, bridges and thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm, which is now moving toward the west coast of Australia.

But Indonesia ‘could still see extreme weather for the next few days,’ said national disaster agency spokesman Raditya Jati.

Relief efforts have been hampered by power outages, as well as blocked roads covered in thick mud after torrents of water and mud washed over homes, bridges and roads when the tropical weather system hit over the weekend

Relief efforts have been hampered by power outages, as well as blocked roads covered in thick mud after torrents of water and mud washed over homes, bridges and roads when the tropical weather system hit over the weekend

Hospitals, bridges and thousands of homes in Indonesia and East Timor were damaged or destroyed by the storm, which is now moving toward the west coast of Australia

Hospitals, bridges and thousands of homes in Indonesia and East Timor were damaged or destroyed by the storm, which is now moving toward the west coast of Australia 

At least nine villages have been affected by flash floods and a landslide that damaged five bridges on the island of Lembata (pictured, residents of Ile Ape, Lembata Island, clean up mud and debris from their house)

At least nine villages have been affected by flash floods and a landslide that damaged five bridges on the island of Lembata (pictured, residents of Ile Ape, Lembata Island, clean up mud and debris from their house)

Authorities were still working to evacuate remote communities and provide shelter to those hit by the storm, he added.

Fatal landslides and flash floods are common across the Indonesian archipelago during the rainy season.

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

And last September, at least 11 people were killed in landslides on Borneo.

The disaster agency has estimated that 125 million Indonesians – nearly half of the country’s population – live in areas at risk of landslides.

The disasters are often caused by deforestation, according to environmentalists.

Authorities were still working to evacuate remote communities and provide shelter to those hit by the storm. Fatal landslides and flash floods are common across the Indonesian archipelago during the rainy season

Authorities were still working to evacuate remote communities and provide shelter to those hit by the storm. Fatal landslides and flash floods are common across the Indonesian archipelago during the rainy season 

Thousands of people fled their homes after they were hit with flash floods and mudslides, and some of which were carried off by the floodwaters. Residents have taken refuge at a nearby evacuation centre

Thousands of people fled their homes after they were hit with flash floods and mudslides, and some of which were carried off by the floodwaters. Residents have taken refuge at a nearby evacuation centre

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