Pope Francis expressed his solidarity and prayers for the victims of floods and landslides that hit several islands in Indonesia and East Timor and killed at least 120 people.
“I wish to assure my prayers for the victims of floods that in the past days have struck Indonesia and East Timor,” said the pope during his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, April 7.
The pontiff said he invokes the Lord “to receive the dead, comfort their families, and sustain those who have lost their homes.”
Church aid agency Caritas Indonesia has announced that it has already reache out to affected communities following the disaster caused by a cyclone on Easter Sunday.
On Wednesday, rescuers continued to search for dozens of people still missing after floods and landslides swept away villages.
Helicopters were deployed to aid the search, and ships carrying food, water, blankets and medicine reached ports previously blocked by high waves whipped up by tropical cyclone Seroja.
The Adonara and Alor islands were among the islands worst hit by the cyclone, with 62 and 21 people dead respectively.
Aerial images from Adonara on Tuesday showed brown mud and flood water covering a vast area, burying houses, roads and trees.
The military and volunteers arrived on the islands on Tuesday and were setting up public kitchens, while medical workers were brought in.
Video taken by a local official in Tanjung Batu village on Lembata, home to the Ile Lewotolok volcano, showed felled trees and large rocks of cold lava that had crushed homes after being dislodged by the cyclone.
Thousands of people have been displaced, nearly 2,000 buildings including a hospital were impacted, and more than 100 homes heavily damaged by the cyclone.
There were also concerns about possible COVID-19 infections in crowded evacuation centers.
In East Timor, at least 33 people were killed in floods and landslides and by falling trees.
“The number of victims could still increase because many victims have not been found,” the main director of civil protection, Ismael da Costa Babo, told Reuters.
A volcano that erupted on Lembata last month wiped out vegetation atop the mountain, which allowed hardened lava to slide towards 300 houses when the cyclone struck.
President Joko Widodo urged his cabinet to speed up evacuation and relief efforts and to restore power.
Weather agency head Dwikorita Karnawati said once-rare tropical cyclones were happening more often in Indonesia and climate change could be to blame. – with a report from Reuters