Indonesia Imports Oxygen As COVID-19 Batters Hospitals

Hospital kitchen workers clad in full PPE deliver meals to COVID-19 coronavirus patients at an isolation section of Bogor general hospital in Bogor, West Java on April 23, 2020. ADITYA AJI / AFP
File Photo: ADITYA AJI / AFP

 

Indonesia is sourcing emergency oxygen for virus patients from neighbouring Singapore, the government said Tuesday, as the 24-hour toll soared to a record 728 deaths and hospitals crumble under the weight of its deadliest Covid-19 wave yet.

Jakarta warned that it was bracing for a spike driven by the highly infectious Delta variant that could send cases skyrocketing to more than 50,000 a day.

Hospitals in the hard-hit capital were topping 90 percent occupancy while more than a dozen facilities in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya are now full and not taking any more patients, authorities said.

A Surabaya hospital spokeswoman described jammed ICUs and exhausted doctors, some infected with Covid-19.

“The hospital no longer has rooms for patients who need ventilators. The ICU rooms are also full,” said the woman who asked not to be identified.

“We’re overwhelmed. Many of our health workers have collapsed from exhaustion and some are also infected. We trying to get volunteers to help out because many of the staff are down.”

READ ALSO: Philippines Retrieves Crashed Military Plane’s Black Boxes

Nearly 1,000 Indonesian medical workers have died of Covid-19, including more than a dozen who were already fully inoculated.

Desperate families are hunting for oxygen tanks to treat the sick and dying at home, as authorities scramble to enforce new virus curbs to bring down record daily cases, which soared Tuesday to 31,189 new infections and 728 deaths — as much as seven times the daily mortality rate less than a month ago.

On Tuesday, Jakarta said about 10,000 concentrators — devices that generate oxygen — were to be shipped from nearby Singapore with some arriving by a Hercules cargo plane earlier.

The government was also in talks with other countries including China for help, it said.

Jakarta has ordered all the nation’s oxygen supplies to be directed to hospitals overflowing with virus patients as the Delta variant ripples across Indonesia’s main Java island, home to more than half of the country’s nearly 270 million people.

“The team is preparing for a scenario of up to 50,000 cases a day, maybe even 60,000 to 70,000 per day at worst,” said senior minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, tasked with enforcing new virus rules.

“But we hope that won’t happen.”

Offices, mosques, parks, shopping malls and restaurants have been shuttered across Java under new curbs that started from the weekend.

But there have been widespread violations.

Authorities in Java’s Semarang city fired water hoses at shops that have refused to close, while Jakarta’s governor Anies Baswedan on Tuesday ordered dozens of offices sealed after some employers ignored work-from-home orders.

The world’s fourth most populous nation has seen its daily caseload soar in recent weeks with its tally at more than 2.3 million cases and 61,686 deaths.

That figure is widely believed to be a severe undercount due to low testing and poor tracing measures.

“The Delta variant has been a major blow to our health system…There is no way to get the situation under control” at current testing levels, said public health expert Hermawan Saputra.

Daily Covid-19 burials in Jakarta are up 10-fold since May, the government has said.

Indonesia is scrambling to innoculate over 180 million people by early next year.

But so far, only about five percent of the total population has received two jabs.

AFP

Indonesia Hits Two Million COVID-19 Cases As Crisis Deepens

File photo: Health officials take samples of saliva and nasal fluid from a resident (L) to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Tangerang on April 2, 2020. FAJRIN RAHARJO / AFP.

 

Indonesia passed two million coronavirus cases Monday as infection rates soar and hospitals are flooded with new patients, prompting warnings that the Southeast Asian nation’s health crisis could spiral out of control.

The unwanted milestone comes after daily case rates more than doubled in recent weeks and authorities identified the presence of highly infectious Covid-19 variants.

On Monday, official figures showed that Indonesia had recorded a daily record high of 14,536 cases, taking the total to just over two million with nearly 55,000 deaths, among a population of nearly 270 million.

But those figures are widely thought to be a severe undercount, due to low testing and contact tracing — some experts have said that official cases may only be about 10 percent of the real number.

“It’s starting to bubble up to the surface, like a time bomb,” said Windhu Purnomo, an epidemiologist at Indonesia’s Airlangga University.

“This is just the beginning. Depending on how things are handled, we could end up with a major explosion like in India.”

Case numbers are spiking as Indonesia grapples with new virus strains, including the highly infectious Delta variant first identified in India.

The rise has also been blamed on millions travelling across the Muslim-majority nation at the end of Ramadan, despite an official ban on the annual migration.

Hospital occupancy rates have soared to over 75 percent in Jakarta and other hard-hit areas, while funerals for Covid-19 victims have also reportedly jumped.

“It’s worrying,” Jakarta resident Rahmani told AFP at a cemetery where he attended the funeral of a relative who died of the virus.

“As good citizens we have to follow government orders to obey health protocols.”

– Younger victims –

The Indonesian Medical Association said the variants appeared to be sickening younger people.

“Previously, Covid-19 patients were elderly or those with [pre-existing conditions],” the association’s Covid-19 spokeswoman Erlina Burhan said earlier.

“But since the virus variants were detected, a lot of patients were younger” and did not have pre-existing conditions, she added.

Widespread rule-breaking on mask-wearing and other health protocols, as well as vaccine scepticism, are among factors cited for the worsening situation.

The World Health Organization has called for tougher movement restrictions.

Indonesia’s government, widely criticised for a weak pandemic response, said Monday it would temporarily beef up restrictions in the capital Jakarta and other hot spots — but enforcement has been lacklustre.

While Indonesia has not put major cities under the kind of strict measures rolled out in some virus-hit nations, dozens of communities in Central Java’s Kudus regency were put into lockdown after the Delta variant was spotted in local testing samples.

And a rash of severe cases in inoculated medical workers has raised questions about the China-produced Sinovac jab, which Indonesia is heavily relying on to vaccinate more than 180 million people by early next year.

This month, more than 300 vaccinated doctors and health-care workers in Central Java were found to have been infected with Covid-19, with about a dozen hospitalised.

Nearly 1,000 Indonesian health workers have died from the virus since the pandemic started.

Indonesia is ramping up inoculations by expanding the programme to anyone over 18 and eyeing incentives, such as giving away free live chickens to older people willing to get jabbed, in a rural part of West Java.

But there is widespread misinformation about the pandemic, and many are sceptical about vaccines.

“I’m convinced that we don’t need to react excessively,” said Jakarta-area resident Rateka Winner Lee.

“My wife and I both had Covid-19 before so we already have the natural vaccine inside our body.”

AFP

Nearly 300 Rescued In Indonesia Ferry Accident

This handout photo taken on May 29, 2021 and released by National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) shows smoke billowing from the KM Karya Indah ferry sailing in the Molucca sea heading for Sanana, a port on the island of Limafatola, when a fire broke out with 275 people on board, all have been rescued but one is still reported missing. (Photo by HANDOUT / National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) / AFP)

 

Search teams are looking for one missing person after rescuing all other passengers from a large ferry that caught fire in Indonesia, an official said Sunday.

The KM Karya Indah was heading to Sanana, a remote port in the northeast of the Indonesian archipelago when it was engulfed in flames.

Shortly after departing, the ferry caught fire, forcing passengers and crew to jump into the sea to save themselves. There are no reported casualties.

“There were 275 people on board, 274 had been evacuated safely,” Muhammad Arafah, the head of the local search and rescue team told Kompas TV Sunday. “One person, a 43-year-old man, is still being searched for.” He added that at least 35 passengers were children.

READ ALSO: France Threatens To Pull Troops Out Of Mali

Dozens of rescuers are still scouring the area for the missing person.

Images shared by the search and rescue agency showed the large ferryboat enveloped in thick, dark smoke while passengers in life jackets were rescued by rafts.

More than a dozen crew members have been detained and questioned by the local police to determine the cause of the fire.

Maritime accidents are common in Indonesia due to poor safety standards. But passenger ferries are widely used for transport in the archipelago of some 17,000 islands.

In 2019, 21 people died when an overloaded ferry sank in rough seas off Java’s north coast.

In 2018, around 160 people drowned when an Indonesian ferry sank into the depths of one of the world’s deepest lakes on Sumatra island. And more than 300 people are estimated to have drowned in 2009 when a ferry sank between Sulawesi and Borneo.

AFP

Selfie Accident Claims Five Lives

This aerial photo taken on May 27, 2021 shows the collapsed jetty on Lake Kandi in Padang, West Sumatra where five tourists died as they tried to take pictures together — the second selfie-attempt accidents in two weeks. (Photo by Adi Prima / AFP)

 

 

Five members of an Indonesian family drowned when a dock where they were taking a selfie collapsed, police said Thursday, just weeks after a similar fatal accident.

The family of 14 were at picturesque Kandi Lake in West Sumatra when they gathered on the wooden structure to take a group photo, but their combined weight brought it down, police said.

A 17-year-old was among the five who drowned while the rest of the family survived the Wednesday accident.

“They were taking a selfie on the dock when the incident happened,” said local police chief Junaidi Nur, who added that it was after closing hours so no security was at the site.

A rescue effort later retrieved the bodies and an investigation was being carried out, Nur said.

This month, nine tourists drowned after their overloaded boat capsized when they were attempting a selfie in a reservoir on Java island.

Indonesia Arrests Four For Stealing Vaccines Meant For Prisoners

File photo: FAJRIN RAHARJO / AFP.

 

Four people have been arrested in Indonesia for allegedly stealing Covid-19 vaccines marked for prisoners and selling them to the public, authorities said Tuesday.

The suspects took more than 1,000 doses made by China’s Sinovac from the prisoners’ quota, offering them to buyers in the capital Jakarta and in North Sumatra’s Medan city for around 250,000 rupiah ($17) each.

The four arrested included a doctor at a prison in Medan and a local health official, police said. They could face a life sentence if convicted under Indonesia’s anti-corruption law.

“One of the suspects brought the vaccines to Jakarta where we also uncovered some locations providing the service,” North Sumatra police spokesman Hadi Wahyudi told AFP Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Australia To Close Embassy In Afghanistan Over Security Fears

Indonesia has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and it is rolling out a massive vaccination programme for many of its nearly 270 million people.

Citizens get shots at no cost.

But tens of millions are still waiting for their jabs, with limited supplies prioritised for frontline health workers and other high-risk groups — including the inmates at Indonesia’s overcrowded prisons.

The country’s prison system is notorious for poor conditions and rights groups have warned about the risk of coronavirus outbreaks in jails across the archipelago.

The arrests come after a separate vaccine scandal in North Sumatra this month, when police said they found health workers at Medan’s airport were recycling cotton swabs from Covid-19 tests by washing and repackaging them.

The scheme could have affected thousands of passengers tested at the airport, they said.

Indonesia has officially reported more than 1.7 million cases of coronavirus and nearly 50,000 deaths.

AFP

 

Seven Killed In Indonesia Boat Selfie Accident

This handout photo taken on May 16, 2021, and released by the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) shows rescuers carrying the body of a victim after a boat carrying 20 holiday-makers capsized on May 15 at a reservoir in Boyolali, Central Java.
HANDOUT / National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) / AFP

 

Seven Indonesians drowned after an overloaded boat capsized because of tourists attempting a selfie in a reservoir on Java island, police said Sunday.

The accident happened when all 20 passengers suddenly moved to the one side of the vessel to take a group photo on Saturday in the Boyolali regency, said Central Java police chief Ahmad Lutfi.

“The cause of the accident was overcapacity,” Lutfi told reporters.

“The 20 people took a selfie on the right side then the boat lost balance and flipped.”

This handout photo taken on May 11, 2021 and released by Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) shows rescuers retrieving bodies after a landslide at a gold mine in south Solok, West Sumatra province, where at least seven people were killed and one reported missing.
HANDOUT / AFP

 

Police added that 11 people were rescued but seven were found dead. Rescuers were searching for two people still missing.

Authorities said they will look into whether there was negligence by those managing the boat rides at the reservoir.

Lutfi said that the boat was helmed by a 13-year-old.

Boat accidents are common in Indonesia, a Southeast Asian archipelago of around 17,000 islands, due to lax safety standards.

In April, rescuers were rushed to find 17 fishermen after two boats collided in West Java. Three were found dead and 13 were still missing when the search ended.

And in January last year, 10 people went missing after a boat carrying 20 migrant workers to neighbouring Malaysia capsized off the coast of Sumatra island.

Global News In Photos (10-16 April)

A protester (L) confronts with an anti-riot police officer during a demonstration of restaurant owners and workers, entrepreneurs and small businesses owners on April 13, 2021 at Circo Massimo in Rome, demanding the easing of lockdown restrictions and financial assistance from the government, during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

 

This is a selection of news photographs taken around the world this week which includes a 6.0-magnitude quake in Indonesia, Britain’s Prince Philip mourned all over the world, historic factory fires, Police officers clash with protesters after an officer shot and killed a black man in the US, and much more.

 

 

 

(COMBO) This combination of pictures taken on April 10, 2021 shows Saudi folklore dancers performing the art of “Taashir”, a traditional dance of the people of Taif, 750 kilometres west of Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh. – Taashir is a war dance performed by carrying a weapon stuffed with gunpowder, which turns into a flame under the feet of the performer when he embraces the sky. The people of Taif still preserve this traditional dance and try to keep it alive among different generations. (Photos by Fayez Nureldine / AFP)

 

 

Muslim worshippers perform the evening Tarawih prayer during the fasting month of Ramadan around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque complex in the holy city of Mecca, on April 13, 2021. – Saudi authorities said on April 5 only people immunised against COVID-19 will be allowed to perform the year-round Umrah pilgrimage from the start of Ramadan, the holy fasting month for Muslims. (Photo by – / AFP)

 

 

This picture shows the 100 days countdown till the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games displayed on the illuminated Tokyo Skytree in Tokyo on April 14, 2021. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP)

 

 

This picture taken in Islamabad on April 15, 2021, shows a lightning flashing over the city during a thunderstorm. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP)

 

 

A loggerhead sea turtle equipped with a GPS tracker is released back into the Mediterranean Sea at Nitzanim beach near the Israeli city of Ashkelon on April 12, 2021. – The 30-kilogramme female loggerhead turtle was released into the Mediterranean after receiving treatment at the Israeli Sea Turtle Rescue Center. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

 

 

US President Joe Biden walks through Arlington National cemetary to honor fallen veterans of the Afghan conflict in Arlington, Virginia on April 14, 2021. – President Joe Biden announced it’s “time to end” America’s longest war with the unconditional withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, where they have spent two decades in a bloody, largely fruitless battle against the Taliban. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

 

 

View of a Christ statue being built in Encantado, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, on April 09, 2021. – The Christ the Protector statue under construction in Encantado will be larger than Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer and the third-largest in the world. (Photo by SILVIO AVILA / AFP)

 

 

This photograph taken on April 10, 2021, shows a helicopter flying as lava is erupting from Piton de la Fournaise volcano, on the southern side of the volcano, on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion. (Photo by Richard BOUHET / AFP)

 

 

A model presents a creation from Spanish designer Ulises Merida’s Autumn – Winter 2021 / 2022 collection during the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Madrid on April 10, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

 

 

Protesters stand on top of a police car as they clash after an officer shot and killed a black man in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 11,2021. – Protests broke out April 11, 2021 night after US police fatally shot a young Black man in a suburb of Minneapolis — where a former police officer is currently on trial for the murder of George Floyd. Hundreds of people gathered outside the police station in Brooklyn Center, northwest of Minneapolis. Police fired teargas and flash bangs at the demonstrators, according to an AFP videojournalist at the scene. (Photo by Kerem Yucel / AFP)

 

 

Police officers take cover as they clash with protesters after an officer shot and killed a black man in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 11,2021. – Protests broke out April 11, 2021 night after US police fatally shot a young Black man in a suburb of Minneapolis — where a former police officer is currently on trial for the murder of George Floyd. Hundreds of people gathered outside the police station in Brooklyn Center, northwest of Minneapolis. Police fired teargas and flash bangs at the demonstrators, according to an AFP videojournalist at the scene. (Photo by Kerem Yucel / AFP)

 

 

A protester (L) confronts with an anti-riot police officer during a demonstration of restaurant owners and workers, entrepreneurs and small businesses owners on April 13, 2021 at Circo Massimo in Rome, demanding the easing of lockdown restrictions and financial assistance from the government, during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

 

People drink in the street in the Soho area of London, on April 12, 2021 as coronavirus restrictions are eased across the country in step two of the government’s roadmap out of England’s third national lockdown. – Britons on Monday toasted a significant easing of coronavirus restrictions, with early morning pints — and much-needed haircuts — as the country took a tentative step towards the resumption of normal life. Businesses including non-essential retail, gyms, salons and outdoor hospitality were all able to open for the first time in months in the second step of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP)

 

 

Demonstrators use umbrellas to shield themselves against tear gas and pepper balls outside the Brooklyn Center police station as they protest the death of Daunte Wright who was shot and killed by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota on April 13, 2021. – Tensions have soared over the death on April 11 of African American Daunte Wright near the Midwestern US city, a community already on edge over the ongoing trial of a policeman accused of killing another Black man, George Floyd. (Photo by Kerem YUCEL / AFP)

 

 

A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard at a position on the frontline with Russia backed separatists near small city of Marinka, Donetsk region on April 12, 2021. – Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in clashes with pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine’s war-torn east, its military said on April 12, 2021, as Kiev again accused Moscow of massing tens of thousands of soldiers on its border. (Photo by STR / AFP)

 

 

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire in a historic factory in Saint Petersburg on April 12, 2021. – Russia on April 13, 2021 detained two people after a huge fire gutted a historic factory in Saint Petersburg, as firefighters continued putting out the blaze. A fire broke out over several floors of the red-brick Nevskaya Manufaktura building in Russia’s second city. The inferno killed one firefighter and left two more hospitalised with serious burns. (Photo by Olga MALTSEVA / AFP)

 

 

Kitesurfers are seen on Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on April 12, 2021. (Photo by Carl DE SOUZA / AFP)

 

 

This picture taken on April 12, 2021 shows tribesmen holding portraits of Britain’s Prince Philip in the town of Yaohnanen, near the town of Yakel, a remote Pacific village on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu that worships Britain’s Prince Philip, following the Duke of Edinburgh’s death on April 9. (Photo by Dan McGarry / AFP)

 

 

Indonesian soldiers and residents check damaged houses in Malang, East Java on April 11, 2021, a day after a 6.0-magnitude quake struck off the coast of Indonesia’s main Java island. (Photo by Juni Kriswanto / AFP)

 

 

A person sleeps next to empty oxygen cylinders while waiting to refill it in Villa El Salvador, on the southern outskirts of Lima, on April 11, 2021, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. – Relatives of COVID-19 patients are desperate for oxygen to keep their loved ones alive during a fierce second wave of the pandemic in Peru, on the day of the first round of presidential and parliamentary elections. (Photo by ERNESTO BENAVIDES / AFP)

 

 

The Death Gun Salute is fired by the Honourable Artillery Company to mark the passing of Britain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at the The Tower of London, in London on April 10, 2021, the day after his death at the age of 99. – Military guns will be fired across Britain and sporting events will fall silent on Saturday as part of worldwide tributes to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

 

 

Children prepare to take part in a training demonstration of the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC-PF) vigilante force, in the village of Ayahualtempa, Guerrero State, Mexico, on April 10, 2021. – The CRAC-PF vigilante group trains children as young as five so they can protect themselves from drug-related criminal groups operating in the area, according to their leaders. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO / AFP)

Indonesia, East Timor Flood Death Toll Surges Past 160

This handout photo taken on April 5, 2021 and released by the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) shows rescuers looking for survivors in Nelemamadike village, East Flores, after torrential rains triggered floods and landslides in Indonesia and East Timor. HANDOUT / NATIONAL SEARCH AND RESCUE AGENCY / AFP

 

 

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.

“Around midnight, we heard a very loud rumbling sound and we thought it was a nearby volcano erupting,” he told AFP.

“By the time we realised that it was a flash flood, the houses were already gone.”

Authorities in both nations were scrambling to shelter evacuees while trying to prevent any spread of Covid-19.

On Tuesday, East Timor recorded its first virus death — a 44-year-old woman — since the pandemic broke out last year.

The tiny half-island nation of 1.3 million sandwiched between Indonesia and Australia, officially known as Timor-Leste, quickly shut down its borders to avoid a widespread outbreak that threatened to overwhelm its creaky health care system.

But the disaster has heightened fears of a spike in cases as thousands cram into shelters across Timor’s inundated capital Dili and elsewhere.

‘Clothes on their back’

Local officials in Lembata were bracing for its meagre health facilities to be overwhelmed as the number of injured coming from isolated villages soars.

“These evacuees fled here with just wet clothes on their backs and nothing else,” said the area’s deputy mayor, Thomas Ola Longaday.

“They need blankets, pillows, mattresses and tents.”

There was also a dire shortage of trained doctors.

“We don’t have enough anaesthesiologists and surgeons, but we’ve been promised that help will come,” Longaday said.

“Many survivors have broken bones because they were hit by rocks, logs and debris.”

Nearby in East Flores municipality, torrents of mud washed over homes, bridges, and roads.

Earlier images from Indonesia’s search and rescue agency showed workers digging up mud-covered corpses before placing them in body bags.

Hospitals, bridges, and thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm, which is now moving toward the west coast of Australia.

But Indonesia “could still see extreme weather (from the cyclone) for the next few days,” said national disaster agency spokesman Raditya Jati.

Authorities were still working to evacuate remote communities and provide shelter to those hit by the storm, he added.

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

January saw flash floods hit the Indonesian town of Sumedang in West Java, killing 40 people.

And last September, at least 11 people were killed in landslides on Borneo.

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

The disasters are often caused by deforestation, according to environmentalists.

AFP

At Least 90 Dead, Dozens Missing In Indonesia Timor Floods

This handout photo taken on April 5, 2021 and released by Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) shows the aftermath of a flash flood in Lembata, East Flores, as dozens are missing after flash floods and landslides killed more than 70 people in Indonesia and neighbouring East Timor, while thousands fled to shelters after the disaster left them homeless. HANDOUT / Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) / AFP

 

 

Tropical cyclone Seroja pounded Indonesia and East Timor Monday after torrential rains triggered floods and landslides that have killed at least 91 people and left dozens missing.

Packing heavy winds and rain, the storm heaped more misery on the Southeast Asian nations after Sunday’s disaster turned small communities into wastelands of mud and uprooted trees and forced thousands of people into shelters.

Downpours are expected over the next day as the storm triggers offshore waves as high as six metres (20 feet), Indonesia’s disaster agency said.

The cyclone, which was picking up strength as it moved toward the west coast of Australia, hampered efforts to reach trapped survivors.

This handout photo taken on April 5, 2021 and released by the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) shows rescuers looking for survivors in Nelemamadike village, East Flores, after torrential rains triggered floods and landslides in Indonesia and East Timor.
HANDOUT / NATIONAL SEARCH AND RESCUE AGENCY / AFP

 

Indonesia’s disaster agency said at least 70 people have been killed, with another 70 missings.

In East Timor, at least 21 people have been killed according to an official in the tiny half-island nation of 1.3 million that lies between Indonesia and Australia.

Many of the deaths were in East Timor’s inundated capital Dili, where the front of the presidential palace was transformed into a mud pit.

In Indonesia’s remote East Flores municipality, torrents of mud washed over homes, bridges, and roads.

Images from Indonesia’s search-and-rescue agency showed workers digging up mud-covered corpses before placing them in body bags.

On Lembata, an island east of Flores, parts of some villages were swept down a mountainside and carried to the shore of the ocean.

Soon after flash floods began tearing into resident Basir Langoday’s district in the early morning, he heard screams for help from a nearby home covered in rubble.

“There were four of them inside. Three survived but the other one didn’t make it,” he told reporters.

Langoday and his friends scrambled to try and save the trapped man before he was crushed to death.

“He said ‘hurry, I can’t hold on any longer,” Langoday added.

Juna Witak, another Lembata resident, joined his family at a local hospital where they wept over the corpse of his mother who was killed in a flash flood Sunday. Her body was found by the seashore.

“There was a rumbling sound and the floods swept away homes, everything,” Witak said.

– ‘Medicine, food, blankets’ –
Indonesian President Joko Widodo expressed “deepest condolences” over the devastation in the southeast end of the archipelago.

“I understand the deep sorrow suffered by our brothers and sisters because of this disaster,” he said in a nationwide address.

The European Union said it was ready to offer assistance to poverty-stricken East Timor, officially known as Timor-Leste.

“The catastrophic floods come at a time when Timor-Leste is working hard to contain the spread of Covid-19 among its population, putting a considerable additional strain both on resources and on the Timorese people,” the EU said.

Across the region, residents have flocked to temporary shelters or taken refuge in what was left of their homes.

“The evacuees are spread out. There are hundreds in each sub-district but many others are staying at home,” said Alfons Hada Bethan, head of the East Flores disaster agency.

“They need medicine, food, blankets.”

Some 2,500 people had been evacuated in East Timor, along with several thousand more in Indonesia.

Pounding rains challenged efforts to find any survivors.

“We suspect many people are buried but it’s not clear how many are missing,” Bethan said.

In Lembata, local officials were forced to deploy heavy equipment to reopen the roads.

Images from the island showed barefoot locals wading through mud and past collapsed houses to evacuate victims on makeshift stretchers.

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

January saw flash floods hit the Indonesian town of Sumedang in West Java, killing 40 people.

And last September, at least 11 people were killed in landslides on Borneo.

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

The disasters are often caused by deforestation, according to environmentalists.

Batik Dye Causes Blood-Red Flood In Indonesia

Residents wade through floodwaters dyed red from the waste of a batik factory, a traditional textile product, in Pekalongan, central Java on February 6, 2021. (Photo by SHAKA / AFP)

 

An Indonesian village was inundated by crimson-coloured water after flooding hit a fabric dyeing centre in central Java, sparking a social media frenzy.

Residents of Jenggot, near the town of Pekalongan, were seen wading through blood-red water on Saturday and many shared images of the rare phenomenon online.

Officials later confirmed the unique colour came from harmless fabric dye used by several batik factories in the area.

Pekalongan itself is well known for its batik textiles industry, with many cottage industries flourishing across the town.

“They did not dump the dye on purpose, but several home industries were flooded and the dye packages were carried away by the water”, local disaster agency official Dimas Arga Yudha told AFP Sunday, adding that the batik dye was not toxic or dangerous.

READ ALSO: Telemedicine Takes Off In Germany During Pandemic

Local officials deployed pumps to drain the flooded area it was cleared in less than an hour.

Floods are very common across the Indonesian archipelago, especially during the rainy season.

In January at least 21 people died and more than 60,000 were evacuated after a series of major floods hit South Kalimantan.

Indonesia Passes One Million COVID-19 Cases

Health officials observe health protocols at an emergency installation at a hospital in Surabaya, East Java, on May 29, 2020, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Juni Kriswanto / AFP)

 

Indonesia passed more than one million Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, as the archipelago launches one of the world’s biggest vaccine drives to clamp down on a soaring infection rate.

The Southeast Asian nation of nearly 270 million has recorded 1,012,350 virus cases and almost 29,000 deaths, according to official data. But low testing rates mean the crisis is believed to be much bigger than those figures suggest.

Some hospitals are on the brink of collapse as they are overwhelmed with patients in one of Asia’s worst-hit nations, public health experts warn.

“I think we hit one million cases of Covid-19 a long time ago,” said Pandu Riono, a University of Indonesia epidemiologist.

“We are still climbing a mountain and we don’t even know where the peak is. This is a never-ending climb.”

There are reports of patients being unable to access intensive care units and isolation rooms due to high demand — a shortage underscored by an East Java city’s move to outfit a train carriage to accommodate the sick.

READ ALSO: UK Unemployment Hits 5.0% On COVID-19 Fallout

The virus has killed more than 600 doctors, nurses and other medical workers, many outfitted with limited protection equipment, according to independent researchers.

“Hospitals are already collapsing,” Riono said, adding that the government had “no management, no plan, no priorities, just trial and error”.

Indonesia’s government has been widely criticised for initially downplaying the pandemic and, later, for lacking a coherent crisis strategy.

The country of some 17,000 islands is now rolling out a huge vaccination drive with front-line workers and other high-risk groups among the first to get the jab, produced by China’s Sinovac.

Officials had earlier said they would focus on inoculating the 18-59 year old working population instead of prioritising the elderly, like many countries are doing.

But the health ministry later said some 25 million seniors would be targeted after doctors and other front-line workers if testing shows the Sinovac jab is safe for older people.

This month, Indonesian President Joko Widodo received the country’s first Covid-19 jab on live television along with his health minister, several senior officials, as well as business and religious leaders.

Tests in hard-hit Brazil showed the Sinovac jab was highly effective in staving off moderate to serious virus cases. But overall, it was only about 50 percent effective in preventing patients from contracting the disease.

Muslim-majority Indonesia’s top religious body also approved the vaccine as halal — meaning permissible under Islam — in a move that could help convince wary citizens.

Previous vaccination drives have been met with resistance by some segments of the country’s huge population, the world’s fourth-largest.

Indonesia is aiming to inoculate nearly 182 million people over the next 15 months.

The country has also signed deals for about 330 million vaccine doses from a string of pharmaceutical companies including AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Chinese suppliers.

Families Of Indonesia Jet Crash Victims Hold Memorial At Sea

Indonesian Navy divers hold wreckage from Sriwijaya Air flight SJY182 during a search and rescue operation at sea near Lancang island on January 10, 2021, after the Boeing 737-500 crashed shortly after taking off from Jakarta airport on January 9. (Photo Credit: AFP)

 

Relatives of 62 people killed when an Indonesian passenger jet slammed into the sea scattered flowers at the crash site Friday, as investigators look for clues to why the plane dropped from the sky minutes after takeoff.

The memorial came as the search for human remains and wreckage ended two weeks after the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 plunged roughly 10,000 feet (3,000 metres) in less than a minute before crashing into waters off Jakarta.

However, the hunt continues for a still-missing cockpit voice recorder, as investigators pore over details from a retrieved flight data recorder — so-called black boxes that could be critical to the probe.

 

Divers bringing up bags filled with debris and body parts to a search and rescue boat from Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182 off the coast north of Jakarta on January 11, 2021, during search operations off the coast for the Boeing 737-500 which crashed into the Java Sea minutes after takeoff on January 9. (Photo by Demy Sanjaya / AFP)

 

 

Maintenance logs pointed to an issue with the plane’s autothrottle, which controls engine power, authorities said, but it was not clear what role — if any — the apparent malfunction played.

On Friday, dozens of relatives tossed red petals from the deck of a navy ship, some overcome with emotion.

“When I cast the flowers I could see my sister’s face on the surface of the water,” said Heri Purnomo, whose older sibling Agus Minardi and her husband were on the flight.

“I burst into tears… It was a very sad moment.”

Jefferson Irwin Jauwena, the airline’s president director, said he was “devastated” by the accident which claimed 12 crew lives.

“We also feel sad and lost,” he said.

 

Relatives of the passengers wait for news at the Supadio airport in Pontianak, on Indonesia’s Borneo island, on January 9, 2021. © Louis Anderson, AFP

 

So far, 47 of the 62 victims have been identified through fingerprints and DNA matches to living family.

But Bety Saprianti, 33, who lost five relatives, is waiting for her aunt to be officially identified.

“We did not attend the ceremony today. None of our family joined — it was too painful,” she said.

“Our only hope now is (the last) of our relatives is identified soon.”

The 26-year-old plane crashed just four minutes after setting off from Jakarta, bound for Pontianak city on Borneo island, a 90-minute flight away.

Authorities said the crew did not declare an emergency or report technical problems with the aircraft before its dive, and that it was probably intact when it hit the water — citing a relatively small area where the wreckage was scattered.

The crash probe is likely to take months, but a preliminary report is expected next month.