Over 100 killed as flooding, mudslides ravage Indonesia and Timor-Leste

·3 min read

Developing Tropical Cyclone Seroja brought rounds of torrential rainfall to the islands of eastern Indonesia and Timor-Leste throughout the weekend and early this week, leading to widespread flooding and deadly mudslides.

As of Tuesday afternoon, local time, 113 people have been killed across eastern Indonesia and Timor-Leste, according to the BBC. Dozens more remain missing in Indonesia and officials warn the death toll could rise.

This satellite image from Sunday night, local time, shows the strengthening tropical low responsible for the severe flooding and mudslides across parts of Indonesia and Timor-Leste. (CIRA/RAMMB)

Extensive damage to homes and businesses has been reported, including to infrastructure needed to fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Staff at the warehouse where Timor-Leste's medical supplies are stored have been working to save what they can after the building flooded over the weekend. This is the same building that was going to store COVID-19 vaccines that were scheduled to arrive on Monday.

Residents and officials have reported water levels as high as 6.5 feet (2 m) in some neighborhoods with houses along the Comoro River being swept away, reported local media.

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The East and West Nusa Tenggara provinces of eastern Indonesia were some off the hardest-hit by torrential rainfall over the weekend. At least 86 people have been killed and thousands more displaced due to flash flooding and mudslides, Reuters reported.

Hundreds of people were involved in search-and-rescue efforts across the province, said Raditya Jati, a spokesperson for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency. Six villages were impacted by flooding and landslides, and recovery efforts were hindered by power outages, debris, thick mud covering roadways and rough seas, Jati added.

Mud rushed down the hills and into the Lamenele village during the early morning on Sunday, Lenny Ola, who heads the local disaster agency, told AP, adding that rescuers recovered 35 bodies and at least five injured persons.

In the village of Oyang Bayang, hundreds of people fled their homes as floodwaters rose. Forty houses were destroyed, including some that were swept away by the floodwaters, said Ola.

Nearly 10,000 people were forced to evacuate due to flooding in Bima, a town located in West Nusa Tenggara, the Associated Press reported.

The death toll from flooding and mudslides is expected to increase in the coming days as search-and-rescue missions continue in some areas and tropical rainfall continues in others.

The torrential rainfall responsible to the damage across eastern Indonesia and Timor-Leste was due to developing Tropical Cyclone Seroja.

Plenty of warm water and light-to-moderate wind shear over the Timor Sea allowed this tropical low to strengthen and produce rounds of heavy rain across the region over the weekend and early this week.

Additional strengthening is possible through the end of the week, according to AccuWeather Lead International Meteorologist Jason Nicholls.

Tropical Cyclone Seroja is now far enough removed from eastern Indonesia and Timor-Leste that the threat for additional flooding rainfall is significantly reduced.

Seroja is expected to track southward and off the coast of Western Australia through the end of the week. Meanwhile, a second tropical cyclone may develop to the south of Christmas Island on the coming days.

"If this low can become a cyclone, it may be named Odette and can eventually interact with the strengthening Tropical Cyclone Seroja later in the week," AccuWeather Meteorologist Mary Gilbert said.

Depending on the exact track and strength of these two storms as they approach each other during the middle of the week will help to determine their future track.

It remains possible that one, or both systems can bring impacts to Western Australia over the weekend.

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