More than 90 dead in Indonesia, East Timor floods, dozens missing

LEMBATA, INDONESIA (AFP) – Tropical cyclone Seroja pounded Indonesia and East Timor yesterday after torrential rains triggered floods and landslides that have killed at least 91 people and left dozens missing.

Packing heavy winds and rain, the storm heaped more misery on the Southeast Asian nations after Sunday’s disaster turned small communities into wastelands of mud and uprooted trees and forced thousands of people into shelters. Downpours are expected over the next day as the storm triggers offshore waves as high as six metres, Indonesia’s disaster agency said.

The cyclone, which was picking up strength as it moved toward the west coast of Australia, hampered efforts to reach trapped survivors.

Indonesia’s disaster agency said at least 70 people have been killed, with another 70 missing. In East Timor, at least 21 people have been killed according to an official in the tiny half-island nation of 1.3 million that lies between Indonesia and Australia.

Many of the deaths were in Timor’s inundated capital Dili, where the front of the presidential palace was transformed into a mud pit.

Soldiers and police officers assist residents to cross a flooded road in Malaka Tengah, East Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia. PHOTO: AP

In Indonesia’s remote East Flores municipality, torrents of mud washed over homes, bridges and roads, while strong waves have prevented search teams from accessing the hardest-hit areas.

On Lembata, an island east of Flores, parts of some villages were swept down a mountainside and carried to the shore of the ocean.

Soon after flash floods began tearing into resident Basir Langoday’s district in the early morning, he heard screams for help from a nearby home covered in rubble.

“There were four of them inside. Three survived but the other one didn’t make it,” he told reporters.

Langoday and his friends scrambled to try and save the trapped man before he was crushed to death.