Indonesia’s navy yesterday readied hospital ships to help treat injured survivors of a cyclone that has killed more than 150 people in the archipelago and neighboring East Timor, the Indonesian National Agency for Disaster Management said.
Helicopters were also dropping food and other essentials into remote villages, as rescuers turned to sniffer dogs in the hunt for dozens still missing after weekend floods and landslides devastated the Southeast Asian nations.
Torrential rains from Tropical Cyclone Seroja, one of the most destructive storms to hit the region in years, turned small communities into wastelands of mud, uprooted trees and sent about 10,000 people fleeing to shelters.
Photo: Reuters / Antara Foto / Aditya Pradana Putra
The storm swept buildings in some villages down a mountainside and to the shore of the ocean on Indonesia’s Lembata Island, where several small communities have been wiped off the map.
The agency said sniffer dogs would hunt through mountains of debris and rubble in the hopes of finding the bodies of about 76 still-missing victims — and any survivors.
About 120 people have been listed as dead in a remote cluster of islands at the eastern end of the archipelago.
Another 34 people have been listed as killed in East Timor — a tiny half-island nation of 1.3 million sandwiched between Indonesia and Australia that is officially known as Timor-Leste.
Its capital, Dili, was inundated, with the front of its presidential palace transformed into a mud pit.
The hospital ships were due to leave Jakarta and Semarang, a city east of Indonesia’s capital, bound for the disaster-struck region, agency spokesman Raditya Jati said.
Rescuers have spent the past few days using diggers and shovels to extract mud-covered corpses from the debris.
Hospitals, bridges and thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm, which flattened scores of small villages.
Authorities in both countries were also battling to avoid a spread of COVID-19 in crammed evacuation shelters. East Timor last year quickly shut its borders to avoid a widespread outbreak that threatened to overwhelm its healthcare system.
Fatal landslides and flash floods are common across the Indonesian archipelago during the rainy season.
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