Indonesia’s navy yesterday readied hospital ships to help treat injured survivors of a cyclone that has killed more than 150 people in the archipelago and neighboring East Timor, the Indonesian National Agency for Disaster Management said.
Helicopters were also dropping food and other essentials into remote villages, as rescuers turned to sniffer dogs in the hunt for dozens still missing after weekend floods and landslides devastated the Southeast Asian nations.
Torrential rains from Tropical Cyclone Seroja, one of the most destructive storms to hit the region in years, turned small communities into wastelands of mud, uprooted trees and sent about 10,000 people fleeing to shelters.
Photo: Reuters / Antara Foto / Aditya Pradana Putra
The storm swept buildings in some villages down a mountainside and to the shore of the ocean on Indonesia’s Lembata Island, where several small communities have been wiped off the map.
The agency said sniffer dogs would hunt through mountains of debris and rubble in the hopes of finding the bodies of about 76 still-missing victims — and any survivors.
About 120 people have been listed as dead in a remote cluster of islands at the eastern end of the archipelago.
Another 34 people have been listed as killed in East Timor — a tiny half-island nation of 1.3 million sandwiched between Indonesia and Australia that is officially known as Timor-Leste.
Its capital, Dili, was inundated, with the front of its presidential palace transformed into a mud pit.
The hospital ships were due to leave Jakarta and Semarang, a city east of Indonesia’s capital, bound for the disaster-struck region, agency spokesman Raditya Jati said.
Rescuers have spent the past few days using diggers and shovels to extract mud-covered corpses from the debris.
Hospitals, bridges and thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm, which flattened scores of small villages.
Authorities in both countries were also battling to avoid a spread of COVID-19 in crammed evacuation shelters. East Timor last year quickly shut its borders to avoid a widespread outbreak that threatened to overwhelm its healthcare system.
Fatal landslides and flash floods are common across the Indonesian archipelago during the rainy season.
BEIJING BAILOUT: Pyongyang’s economic woes would not lead to famine because China will not let that happen due to its fear of a pro-US unified Korea, experts say North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called for another “arduous march” to fight severe economic difficulties, for the first time comparing them to a 1990s famine that killed hundreds of thousands. Kim had previously said his nation faces its “worst-ever” situation due to several factors — including the COVID-19 pandemic, US-led sanctions and natural disasters in the summer last year — but it is the first time he has publicly drawn a parallel with the deadly famine. North Korea monitoring groups have not detected any signs of mass starvation or a humanitarian disaster, but Kim’s comments still suggest how seriously he views
The COVID-19 variant discovered in South Africa can “break through” Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to some extent, a real-world data study released on Saturday found, although its prevalence in the country is low and the research has not been peer reviewed. The study in Israel compared almost 400 people who had tested positive for COVID-19, 14 days or more after they received one or two doses of the vaccine, against the same number of unvaccinated people with the disease. It matched age and gender, among other characteristics. The South African variant, B.1.351, was found to make up about 1 percent of all the COVID-19
RARE ADMISSION: A top Chinese expert was the first to publicly address the efficacy of the nation’s vaccines as it aims to inoculate 40 percent of its population by June China is considering mixing different COVID-19 vaccines to improve the relatively low efficacy of its existing options, a top health expert told a conference in Chengdu on Saturday. Authorities have to “consider ways to solve the issue that efficacy rates of existing vaccines are not high,” Chinese media outlet The Paper reported, citing Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Gao Fu (高福). His comments mark the first time a top Chinese expert has publicly alluded to the relatively low efficacy of the country’s vaccines, as China forges ahead in its mass vaccination campaign and exports its jabs around the world. China
A years-long David and Goliath fight which has seen two Australian surfers take on a Chinese-linked company over alleged damage of an idyllic Fijian island has come to its conclusion after a court handed down a guilty verdict against the developers yesterday. The case has been described by Pacific legal experts as a “watershed” moment that tested Fijian environmental laws, as well as the willingness of the nation — which presents itself as a global climate leader — to “walk the walk” on environmental issues. Freesoul, a Chinese-linked company, in 2018 began work on Malolo Island, with plans to build Fiji’s largest