Death toll up as floods and landslides hit parts of Indonesia, Timor-Leste

People keeping to higher ground as a river swelled due to flooding in Dili, Timor-Leste, on Sunday. At least 27 people in the country were killed by landslides, flash floods, as well as a falling tree, while 7,000 were displaced.
People keeping to higher ground as a river swelled due to flooding in Dili, Timor-Leste, on April 4, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Rescue workers searching for a body in an area affected by flash floods after heavy rain in East Flores in Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province yesterday. At least 70 people in the country have died in flash floods and landslides, while over 30,00
Rescue workers searching for a body in an area affected by flash floods after heavy rain in East Flores in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province on April 5, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

At least 70 people have been killed after flash floods and landslides hit Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara provinces at the weekend, and the authorities said yesterday that the figure might rise.

More than 30,000 people were affected and 70 others missing.

Most of the deaths, or 68 of them, occurred on Sunday on the islands across East Nusa Tenggara, said the Disaster Management Agency (BNPB).

The day before, a nine-hour downpour caused dams in four districts in Bima regency in neighbouring West Nusa Tenggara province to overflow, resulting in floods that reached up to 2m high.

Two people died.

"Ten regencies and one city in East Nusa Tenggara have been impacted," BNPB spokesman Raditya Jati told a press briefing yesterday, blaming a cyclone for the disaster.

Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency said on Saturday that Tropical Cyclone Seroja was developing over the Savu Sea, in East Nusa Tenggara. It forecast very heavy rain, strong winds and high waves until Friday, although the agency said yesterday that the cyclone would be moving south-west away from Indonesia.

East Flores regency, where 44 people died, was among the worst affected regions, BNPB said. At least 17 houses were washed away by flood waters, 60 others inundated by mud, and five bridges destroyed. Rescuers were struggling to evacuate victims as the key transport route to reach the region by sea was hindered by rain, strong wind and waves. Another 24 people were killed in Lembata, Alor and Ende regencies.

Dr Raditya yesterday noted that the data was "dynamic" as rescuers and disaster management teams tried to search and verify casualties as well as damage on the ground.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, yesterday expressed grief over the casualties and instructed the authorities, including BNPB and the National Search and Rescue Agency, to evacuate the affected residents quickly.

"I demand that the disaster be handled well and promptly with health service aid, provision of logistics supply and basic needs for the evacuees, and infrastructure rehabilitation," he said.

Yesterday, BNPB distributed food, blankets and masks, among other relief supplies, in East Flores regency. Dr Raditya said that the ongoing extreme weather and damaged infrastructure hindered distribution of aid, particularly to small islands. "Helicopters are on stand-by in Larantuka (in East Flores) and Kupang city to back up these islands," he said.

Deadly flash floods and landslides often occur in Indonesia during the rainy season. Flash floods in Sumedang, West Java, in January caused at least 40 deaths.

In Timor-Leste, the neighbouring country on Timor island, at least 27 people were killed by landslides, flash floods, as well as a falling tree, while 7,000 were displaced, Reuters reported.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2021, with the headline 'Death toll up as floods and landslides hit parts of Indonesia, Timor-Leste'. Subscribe