Bad weather blocks aid to victims of cyclone Seroja in East Nusa Tenggara
by Mathias Hariyadi

Heavy rains and six-metre waves hamper rescue work. Basic necessities can only arrive by plane. Sea travel is impossible. Card Suharyo appeals through the local Caritas: “Professing the Christian faith implies doing good to others.”

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Bad weather, heavy rains and six-metre waves are hampering rescue teams in Adonara, Lembata district, East Nusa Tenggara province (NTT), one of the areas most affected by Cyclone Seroja.

The government has declared a state of emergency in the region. However, boats are unusable because they would put at serious risk the very lives of rescuers and volunteers engaged in first response operations.

Asked by AsiaNews, Sister Wilhelmina Koto, currently in the area most affected by the cyclone, confirms the enormous difficulties in reaching Lembata where “only planes are able to bring humanitarian aid.”

Augustinus Dharmawan Lie, founder of Doctor Share's Floating Hospital, has not yet received “the green light to reach NTT” with his own boat.

“Ship and crew are still waiting in Mamuju, western Sulawesi, where they are helping the people affected by last January’s earthquake,” he explained.

Another obstacle for rescue teams is the lack of bridges, many of which were swept away by the fury of the waters, especially in Waingapu district (Sumba Island).

AsiaNews has tried to contact residents in Amfoang, the border area between Indonesia and East Timor, so far in vain. In many parts of Kupang, the capital of NTT province, there is no electricity because of frequent power outages.

Archbishop Ignatius Cardinal Suharyo of Jakarta, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Indonesia (KWI), has urged people, especially Catholics, to show generosity and compassion towards Seroja’s victims and their families.

The prelate led a fundraiser through the local Caritas (Karina KWI) because “professing the Christian faith also implies doing good to others”.

Archbishop Aloysius Sudarso of Palembang, who chairs Caritas Indonesia, praised the cardinal's words, urging the faithful to respond positively to the appeal.

The tropical cyclone hit many spots in both East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara provinces.

As days go by, the devastation caused by the cyclone becomes more evident. The most affected areas belong to the dioceses of Kupang, Atambua, and Weetebula on Sumba Island and the Diocese of Larantuka on Flores Island.

Meanwhile, controversy surrounds the allocation of emergency funds by the national government, which so far does not seem to have provided the necessary aid to the affected population.