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Dozens killed in Indonesia landslides

April 4, 2021

Rescuers are trying to deliver aid, but high waves and severe weather conditions are hampering efforts to reach the worst-affected island.

Residents inspect the damage at a village hit by flash flood in East Flores, Indonesia
East Flores regency was worst hit by flash flooding and mud slidesImage: Ola Adonara/AP/picture alliance

At least 55 people were killed after flash floods and landslides struck Indonesia on Sunday, rescue officials said. At least 21 people have also died from the floods in the tiny half-island nation of East Timor

Worst hit was East Flores regency in Indonesia's southernmost East Nusa Tenggara province.

Authorities expect the death toll to rise.

Which areas have been affected?

Rescuers recovered the bodies of 38 people who died when mud slid onto dozens of houses in Lamenele village on Flores Island in East Flores, said Lenny Ola, who heads the regional disaster agency.

People walk through mud and debris in Indonesia
Many residents were forced to flee their homes after they were inundated with floodwaterImage: BNPB/AFP

The bodies of three people were found after being swept away by flash floods in Oyang Bayang village as 40 houses were destroyed, she said.

In Waiburak village, three people were killed and seven remained missing when rivers burst their banks, Ola said.

Four injured people were being treated at a local health clinic.

Hundreds of people were displaced after leaving submerged homes. Some homes were carried off by the floodwaters.

Mud covers homes in a village in Indonesia
At least 38 people died in a mudslide in the village of Lamanele on Flores islandImage: BNPB/AFP

The rainfall and floods have also caused power cuts, blocked roads and cut off bridges.

Meanwhile, nine hours of rainfall wreaked havoc in Bima, a town in the neighboring province of West Nusa Tenggara.

The heavy rain caused dams in four subdistricts to overflow, submerging nearly 10,000 houses, Jati said.

Hampered rescue efforts

Aid and relief efforts for the affected villages were hampered by the absence of transportation to Flores island, which was hardest hit.

It can only be reached by sea, but links have been suspended because of high waves and severe weather conditions.

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"We are working on other ways to reach the island other than by the sea," said Raditya Jati, a spokesperson for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Deforestation behind landslides

Fatal landslides and flash floods are common across the Indonesian archipelago during the rainy season.

In January, flash floods hit the Indonesian town of Sumedang in West Java, killing dozens of people.

In September, at least 11 people were killed in landslides on Borneo. Dozens died in a similar disaster in Sulawesi a few months earlier.

Deforestation is often a cause of landslides, according to environmentalists.

The country's disaster agency has estimated that 125 million Indonesians — nearly half of the country's population — live in areas at risk of landslides.

kmm/mm (AFP, AP, dpa)