Rescue efforts hampered as flash floods and landslides in Indonesia kill dozens

Soldiers and police officers assist residents to cross a flooded road in Indonesia (AP)

Multiple disasters caused by torrential rains in eastern Indonesia have killed at least 55 people and displaced thousands, the country’s disaster relief agency has said.

Mud tumbled down from surrounding hills onto dozens of homes in Lamenele village shortly after midnight on Sunday on Adonara island in East Nusa Tenggara province.

Rescuers recovered 38 bodies and at least five people were injured, said Lenny Ola, who heads the local disaster agency.

Flash flooding killed at least 17 people elsewhere and at least 42 are missing, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Indonesia Landslide

Indonesian soldiers use a tractor to help residents cross a flooded road (AP)

Meanwhile, 11 deaths have been reported in East Timor.

Relief efforts have been hampered by power outages, as well as blocked roads covered in thick mud.

The bodies of three people were recovered after being swept away by floods in the village of Oyang Barang, where 40 houses were also destroyed, Mr Ola said. Hundreds of people fled submerged homes, some of which were carried off by the floodwaters.

In another village, Waiburak, three people were killed and seven missing after overnight rains caused rivers to burst their banks, sending muddy water into large areas of East Flores district, Mr Ola said.

The rains also caused cold lava to tumble down the slopes of the Ili Lewotolok volcano and hit several villages.

Hundreds of people are still involved in rescue efforts. At least nine villages have been affected by flash floods and a landslide that damaged five bridges on the island of Lembata.

East Timor Indonesia Landslide

A man inspects buildings damaged by a flood in Dili, East Timor (AP Photo)

President Joko Widodo said he had ordered his cabinet ministers and the chiefs of the military, police and disaster agency to carry out emergency response measures and search and rescue operations as quickly as possible.

“I can feel the grief of our brothers and sisters there caused by these disasters,” Mr Widodo said during a televised address, offering his deep condolences to the victims.

Tropical Cyclone Seroja has produced high waves, strong winds and heavy rains for the past three days and its effects were expected to last until Friday, said Dwikorita Karnawati, the head of Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency.

She warned that the cyclone could trigger tidal waves up to 13 feet on Sumba, Flores and Rote islands in East Nusa Tenggara province, and up to 19.6 feet in the southern part of the province and in the Banda Sea and Indian Ocean.

Seasonal rains frequently cause flooding and landslides in Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains.

Australian forecasters have warned residents in Western Australia state’s far north that the tropical cyclone was intensifying and moving towards them.

Seroja, or lotus flower, formed early on Monday morning in Indonesian waters and was moving south-west, the Bureau of Meteorology said. It is not expected to affect Australian communities for the next 48 hours, but residents were urged to monitor forecasts.

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