East Nusa Tenggara: cyclone Seroja kills more than 120 (VIDEO)
by Mathias Hariyadi

East Timor also hit. Entire villages swept away by floods and landslides. About 10 thousand residents have fled in search of shelter. More than 100 are missing. Rescuers continue to dig. President Widodo orders rapid evacuation. Catholics launch a fundraiser. At least 125 million Indonesians live in endangered areas.


Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The initial death toll of the tropical cyclone Seroja, which hit East Timor and the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara on 4 April, has risen to 120. Strong winds and torrential rains uprooted trees and caused landslides; entire villages are submerged by water and mud: about 10 thousand residents have fled in search of shelter.

Relief operations have been set in motion. Rescuers dig through the debris in search of survivors: The Indonesian authorities currently speak of over 100 missing, a number destined to increase. The most affected areas in Indonesia (see map) are the island of Adonara, Lembata, Eastern Sumba and Timor. Rescue efforts are hampered by the collapse of bridges and road interruptions.

For the next few days, the effects of possible storm surges are feared. Along the coast of Lembata the waves reached six meters in height. Sister Wilhemina Kato explained to AsiaNews that the floods have devastated three villages in Adonara: Waiburak, Lamanele and Lamalaka. "The Waibele River overflowed and engulfed the surrounding area," comments Sr. Wilhemina, who is coordinating humanitarian aid from the local diocese of Larantuka.

For the moment, the central government has not declared a state of national disaster: local administrations therefore remain responsible for relief efforts. However, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has ordered a prompt evacuation of the affected population.

The Catholic community, especially through Caritas Indonesia, reacted to the tragedy by launching a fundraiser for the displaced. The donations will be used to purchase food, medicine, blankets and masks for Covid-19. Fr. Gaby Dasilva, vicar of the diocese of Larantuka, explained that the diocesan Caritas has created a special center to deal with the crisis.

Indonesia is often hit by floods and other natural disasters. In January, a sudden flood killed 40 people in Sumedang (West Java); last September 11 people died in Borneo due to a landslide. According to the national authorities, about 125 million Indonesians - almost half of the population - live in areas of high hydrogeological risk. For environmental groups, landslides and floods in these territories are favoured by the massive deforestation for commercial purposes.

 

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