Tropical cyclone kills at least 113 in Indonesia, East Timor

By Yos Seran and Agustinus Beo Da Costa

MALAKA, Indonesia (Reuters) – Floods and landslides triggered by tropical cyclone Seroja in a cluster of islands in southeast Indonesia and East Timor have killed 113 people, with many still unaccounted for and thousands displaced, officials said on Monday.

At least 86 deaths were reported on several islands in Indonesia’s West and East Nusa Tenggara provinces, while 71 others were missing, after the cyclone brought flash floods, landslides and strong winds amid heavy rain over the weekend, disaster agency BNPB said.

In East Timor, which shares the Timor island with Indonesia, at least 27 people were killed by landslides, flash floods and a falling tree, while 7,000 were displaced, its government said.

On Lembata island, authorities feared bodies had been washed away.

“We are using rubber boats to find bodies at sea. In several villages, flash floods hit while people were sleeping,” Thomas Ola Langoday, deputy head of Lembata district government, told Reuters by phone.

About 30,000 people have been impacted by floods in Indonesia, some already taking shelter in evacuation centers, but rescue operations have been made difficult after five bridges collapsed and falling trees blocked some roads, BNPB spokesman Raditya Jati said.

A continuing storm had also halted evacuations in some places, local authorities said.

Hundreds of houses and other facilities such as a solar power plant were damaged, BNPB said. Ships and motor boats sank as the cyclone set off waves as high as 6 meters.

Powerful currents continued to flow through villages in the Malaka district on Timor island on Monday, even though the rain had stopped.

Some residents there hauled themselves to their roofs to escape flood water rising to 3-4 meters.

“We had to dismantle the zinc roof. We went out through the back door and pulled ourselves out with a rope,” Agustina Luruk, 36, told Reuters as she and her three daughters waited to be evacuated by the side of a muddy road.

President Joko Widodo offered his condolences and ordered speedy disaster relief efforts.

The Seroja cyclone hit the Savu sea southwest of Timor island in the early hours of Monday, Indonesia’s weather agency said.

Within 24 hours, the cyclone’s intensity could strengthen, bringing yet more rain, waves and winds, although it was moving away from Indonesia, the agency said.

Dwikorita Karnawati, the agency’s head, said that the cyclone would be weakening in the next two days.

(Reporting by Yos Seran in Malaka, Agustinus Beo Da Costa in Jakarta, Nelson Da Cruz in Dili; Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Martin Petty, Giles Elgood, Kirsten Donovan)

Australia receives bushfire reprieve with floods, battens down for cyclone

SYDNEY/MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Many Australians were experiencing a bittersweet break from the threat of bushfires on Thursday, with flooding rains deluging some parts of the eastern states and miners preparing for a tropical cyclone to hit the country’s iron ore heartland over the weekend.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) issued severe thunderstorm warnings for the southeast of Queensland state and a flood alert for more than 20 areas in New South Wales (NSW) after the start of heavy rainfall that is expected to continue for several days.

Warm, moist air feeding in from the east was bringing the rain, BOM forecaster Mike Funnell told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“We are expecting those larger totals and heavier rainfall to come into the northeast coast of NSW and then sort of track slowly southwards,” he said.

Cricket Australia said a bushfire fundraising match which was set to be played in Sydney on Saturday had to be rescheduled for Melbourne on Sunday because of the rain.

Miners Rio Tinto and BHP Group said they were monitoring the situation and making preparations ahead of Saturday, when a tropical low off the coast of Western Australia is forecast to develop into a category three cyclone that was set to make landfall in the Pilbara area.

“With strong winds and heavy seas predicted, both Port Walcott (Cape Lambert) and Dampier ports are being cleared, as this impacts the ability to safely moor vessels,” Rio said.

“We have also started the process of demobilizing non-essential people from our sites which may be affected by the weather system,” it said in a statement.

The wet weather has helped douse or slow some of the country’s most damaging and long-running wildfires, which have burned through more than 11.7 million hectares (2.8 million acres) of land since September. The prolonged bushfire season has killed 33 people and an estimated 1 billion native animals. More than 2,500 homes have been destroyed.

Officials, however, have warned the threat was not yet over and that there will likely be weeks more of firefighting ahead.

Around 60 fires were still burning across NSW and Victoria, the country’s most populous states, with around half of those classified as uncontained.

(Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney and Melanie Burton in MELBOURNE; Editing by Jane Wardell and Lincoln Feast)

Four dead, one missing as tropical cyclone causes floods in Fiji

FILE PHOTO - A view of floodwater from Tropical Cyclone Josie in Nailaga Village, Ba, Fiji March 31, 2018 in this image obtained from social media. Picture taken March 31, 2018. Naziah Ali via REUTERS

By Alison Bevege

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Floods caused by a tropical cyclone that brought torrential weekend rains to the Pacific island nation of Fiji have killed four people, with another presumed drowned, a disaster management official said on Monday.

Tropical Cyclone Josie, a category-one storm, caused severe flooding, with the northwestern town of Ba on Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu, said to be the worst hit.

FILE PHOTO - A man collects water, after flooding from Tropical Cyclone Josie in Ba, Fiji April 1, 2018 in this image obtained from social media. Naziah Ali via REUTERS

FILE PHOTO – A man collects water, after flooding from Tropical Cyclone Josie in Ba, Fiji April 1, 2018 in this image obtained from social media. Naziah Ali via REUTERS

Four bodies had been retrieved and authorities do not expect that the missing person survived, said Anare Leweniqila, the director of the Fiji National Disaster Management Office.

“The death toll will go to five when we find their body,” he told Reuters by telephone.

He said 1,873 people sheltering in 35 evacuation centers would not be able to return home until mosquito spraying was completed.

“In two to three days people can go home after the clean-up and the vector spraying for diseases in the worst affected areas,” Leweniqila added.

The Fiji Meteorological Service warned of heavy rain expected on Monday afternoon in Fiji and surrounding islands, as Tropical Cyclone Josie moved away in a south-southeast direction.

Leweniqila said the authorities did not envisage any more flooding as the water level was receding even after heavy rain, but that road damage had been extensive.

Up to 74 roads were closed due to flooding.

In February, Fiji escaped without deaths or widespread damage when Gita, a category 4 tropical cyclone, lashed the country with winds of up to 275 km per hour (171 mph).

(Reporting by Alison Bevege; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Tropical Cyclone Pam Reaches Category 5

The South Pacific island of Vanuatu has been hammered by Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Pam.

The Island has faced 165 m.p.h. winds from one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded east of Australia.  The eye of the storm passed over Vanuatu on March 13th around 4:05 a.m., the first category 5 to make landfall since the devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013.

Reports say that Efate Island, the most populated in Vanuatu, has suffered extreme damage from the storm.  There has been no confirmed reports of deaths, injuries, or missing.

Port Vila, located on the southwest part of the island, did not get hit by the storm’s eye and was able to stay online throughout most of the storm’s move over the Island.  The last recording sent by a weather station at the port showed almost 4.7 inches of rain from the storm.

Four tropical cyclones are currently spinning in the Pacific including one just off the western coast of Australia.