More than 150 killed in Indonesia and East Timor . . .
Cyclone Seroja was the strongest ever to hit Indonesia and the most destructive, generating flash floods and landslides that swept away entire villages. The cyclone touched land in the early hours of Monday while most people were sleeping. As of Tuesday morning, at least 128 people in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia’s southernmost province, and 27 people in East Timor were reported dead. Many others are still missing. While the storm is travelling southwest, away from East Nusa Tenggara, it is forecast to continue to cause disruptions in the region through Wednesday, causing high sea waves and tsunami-like effects. The storm is expected to reach Western Australia’s northern coast on Thursday, and it is feared that the storm’s intensity will grow in the meantime.
Relief efforts underway . . .
On Tuesday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo held a cabinet meeting to speed up relief efforts. Immediate challenges range from search and rescue, sheltering more than 8,000 displaced people, and restoring power, all this while preventing the spread of COVID-19. To make matters worse, damaged roads and bridges are undermining relief efforts, and the continuing storm has forced authorities to halt evacuations in some places. Helicopters and boats have been deployed to search at sea while others are digging mud to find survivors in landslides’ debris.
Oceans’ growing threat . . .
Data from Indonesia’s Tropical Cyclone Warning Center suggest that cyclones have become stronger and more frequent in recent years. The head of Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency believes this trend will continue. Rising sea surface temperatures cause more water vapour and stronger storms, and the water around East Nusa Tenggara province is currently around 30C, four degrees higher than normal. Along with rising sea temperatures, rising sea levels, also a consequence of climate change, are expected to destroy much of the archipelago’s territory by 2050. Notably, flooding is the principal consideration in Indonesia’s decision to move the capital away from Jakarta in 2019.
- Nikkei Asian Review: Indonesia warns of bigger, more frequent cyclones as seas warm
- Reuters: Tropical cyclone kills at least 113 in Indonesia, East Timor
- South China Morning Post: Indonesia deploys helicopters in search for survivors after cyclone Seroja wreaks havoc