At least 91 people have reportedly died and dozens missing with many others rendered homeless following tropical cyclone Seroja that pounded Indonesia and East Timor after torrential rains triggered floods and landslides.
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.
Confirming the incident, Indonesia’s Disaster Agency said that at least 70 people have been killed, with 70 others missing.
The agency said that downpours are expected over the next day as the storm triggers offshore waves as high as six meters (20 feet). The cyclone, which was picking up strength as it moved toward the west coast of Australia, hampered efforts to reach trapped survivors.
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 East Timor’s inundated capital Dili, where the front of the presidential palace was transformed into a mud pit.
In Indonesia’s remote East Flores municipality, torrents of mud washed over homes, bridges, and roads. Images from Indonesia’s search-and-rescue agency showed workers digging up mud-covered corpses before placing them in body bags.
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. “He said ‘hurry, I can’t hold on any longer,” Langoday added.
Juna Witak, another Lembata resident, joined his family at a local hospital where they wept over the corpse of his mother who was killed in a flash flood Sunday. Her body was found by the seashore.
“There were a rumbling sound and the floods swept away homes, everything,” Witak said.