East Timor death toll surges 160

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Lembata, Indonesia

Rescuers were searching for dozens of people still missing Tuesday after floods and landslides swept away villages in Indonesia and East Timor, killing more than 160 people and leaving thousands more homeless.

Torrential rains from Tropical Cyclone Seroja turned small communities into wastelands of mud, uprooted trees and sent around 10,000 people fleeing to shelters across the neighbouring Southeast Asian nations.

Indonesia’s disaster management agency said it had recorded 130 deaths in a cluster of remote islands near East Timor, where another 34 have been officially listed as dead since the disaster struck on Sunday.

Search and rescue teams in Indonesia were racing to find more than 70 people still missing and using diggers to clear mountains of debris.

The storm swept buildings in some villages down a mountainside and to the shore of the ocean on Lembata island, where some small communities have been wiped off the map.

“This area will never be inhabited again,” said Lembata district official Eliyaser Yentji Sunur, referring to a flattened part of Waimatan village.

“We won’t let people live here. Like it or not, they’ll have to relocate.” Waimatan resident Onesimus Sili said floods early Sunday destroyed his community before anyone knew what happening.—APP

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