Heavy rains hamper landslide rescue efforts in Indonesia

World Monday 05/April/2021 17:02 PM
By: DW
Heavy rains hamper landslide rescue efforts in Indonesia

Flash floods and landslides that hit Indonesia and neighboring East Timor over the weekend have killed over 90 people, officials said on Monday.

The tropical cyclone behind the damage is expected to continue impacting the area for several days, hindering rescue efforts.

What is the latest?

In Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province, at least 70 people have died and over 70 are missing, the country's disaster agency BNPB said.

In East Timor, flooding and landslides have killed at least 21 people, officials on the half-island nation said. Most of the deaths were in the country's capital Dili.

The death toll in both countries is expected to rise as emergency crews reach villages that have been cut off in the damage caused by the rains.

The extreme weather has forced authorities to evacuate nearly 2,000 people — over 400 in Indonesia and over 1,500 in East Timor.

Weather hampering rescue efforts

Rescuers trying to reach trapped survivors have been hindered by ongoing downpours and heavy mud.

Roads and bridges have been destroyed, while high waves at sea are making it difficult for rescuers to reach areas that are only accessible via boat.

On top of the evacuations, thousands of people across the region have been displaced, with people flocking to temporary shelters.

In some areas, authorities fear that some bodies may not be recovered as they might have been washed away.

"We are using rubber boats to find bodies at sea. In several villages, flash floods hit while people were sleeping," Thomas Ola Langoday, deputy head of Lembata district government, told Reuters news agency.

How have officials reacted?

Indonesian President Joko Widodo offered his "deepest condolences" to the victims and those who had lost their homes.

 "I understand the deep sorrow suffered by our brothers and sisters because of this disaster," he said in an address streamed online.

He added that his Cabinet and the heads of the military and disaster agency are being mobilized to carry out search and rescue operations as well as implement emergency measures.

How long with the storm last?

The cyclone responsible for the torrential rains and subsequent landslides is expected to impact the area for the next few days.

Indonesia's weather agency said the storm's intensity could strengthen over the next 24 hours — prompting more heavy rain and strong winds.

The storm is then expected to move towards the west coast of Australia.