Tropical cyclone kills over 70, thousands displaced in Indonesia, East Timor

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Floods and landslides triggered by tropical cyclone Seroja in a cluster of islands in southeast Indonesia and East Timor have killed at least 76 people and displaced thousands, officials said on Monday.

There were 55 people dead and 40 missing in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province, after the cyclone brought flash floods, landslides and strong winds amid heavy rain since the weekend, disaster agency BNPB said.

More than 400 people were evacuated and thousands more impacted, it said.

In East Timor, which shares the Timor island with Indonesia, 21 people were killed by landslides, flash floods and a falling tree, mostly in the capital Dili.

More than 1,500 people were evacuated, Main Director of Civil Protection, Ismael da Costa Babo, told reporters.

Several bridges collapsed, trees fell and blocked some roads in Indonesia and at least one ship sank in high waves triggered by the cyclone, complicating search and rescue operations, BNPB said.

Agustinus Payong Boli, deputy head of the East Flores government, said rescuers halted evacuations because a storm was still raging and they needed heavy equipment.

In Lembata, where at least 20 people died, authorities feared bodies had been washed away.

“We are using rubber boats to find bodies at sea. In several villages, flash floods hit while people were sleeping,” Thomas Ola Langoday, deputy head of Lembata district government, told Reuters by phone.

President Joko Widodo offered his condolences and urged residents to follow the direction from field officers during extreme weather.

“I have ordered for disaster relief efforts to be conducted quickly and well,” he said in remarks streamed online.

The Seroja cyclone hit the Savu sea southwest of Timor island in the early hours of Monday, Indonesia’s weather agency said.

Within the next 24 hours, the cyclone’s intensity could strengthen, bringing yet more rain, waves and winds, although it was moving away from Indonesia, the agency said.

DAILY NATION