Tropical Cyclone Seroja Smashes into East Nusa Tenggara, Evangelical Christian Church of Timor Urges Government to Declare the Province a Disaster Zone

Efforts to evacuate victims of a landslide in Alor

KUPANG, www.sinodegmit,or.id, Tropical Cyclone Seroja slammed into East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) for a period of three days, beginning on Good Friday through Easter Sunday (2-4 April 2021), causing heavy winds, flooding, and landslides, and resulting in many deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage.

As of Tuesday, 6 April 2021, the Executive Council of the Evangelical Christian Church of Timor (GMIT) has received reports on the effects of the disaster in Alor Regency, where 17 persons are confirmed dead, 25 injured, and 24 are still missing. 

The victims were from Mainang village in the North Central Alor Presbytery, Tamakh village in West Pantar Presbytery, and the villages of Malaipea and Pido in the Presbytery of South Central Alor. 

In Waiwerang village of the Presbytery of Flores, there were 4 confirmed deaths, with 10 people still missing and dozens of homes destroyed.

The Presbytery of Central Kupang suffered the loss of one of its pastors, Rev. Merly Molina Kande, who was killed along with her daughter and a niece when a section of the church building collapsed on them.

Storm victim Rev. Merly Kande lies with her daughter and niece

The Presbytery of East Kupang in the Kupang Regency, as well as the Regencies of Malaka, South Central Timor, Rote-Ndao, and Sabu-Raijua are also reported to have suffered extensive losses, although there are as yet no confirmed reports of deaths or of the extent of damage. In most of these areas the people suffered loss of livestock that were carried away by floodwaters, as well as destruction of rice crops that were nearing harvest.

Thousands of houses have been damaged or destroyed throughout NTT.  Many lost their roofs due to the high winds, and roads were blocked and electric wires pulled down by falling trees.

As of 6 April electricity was still out in the city of Kupang and surrounding areas, and telecommunications including internet service were severely hampered.

Many of GMIT’s church buildings suffered severe damage, the most common damages being broken windows and roofing blown away by the high winds. Some of the churches that suffered damage in the city of Kupang include Bethlehem Oesapa, Kota Baru, Galed Kelapa Lima, and Talitakumi Pasir Panjang.

The damaged roof of Kota Baru church

The churches that escaped serious damage were opened as shelters those of all faiths who had to flee their homes.

In response to the disaster that has torn apart much of NTT, the GMIT Executive Council is urging the government to immediately declare the province a disaster area, in order to speed up aid and recovery efforts.

“Based on the reports that we have received so far from the presbyteries, nearly the entire area of NTT has suffered extensive damage.  For this reason, we need the appropriate government officials at the city, regency, and provincial levels to declare a state of public emergency in order to better coordinate our disaster response and to enable additional resources from the national government and international agencies, so that NTT can recover more quickly from Tropical Cyclone Seroja,” said GMIT Moderator Rev. Mery Kolimon.  

She further noted that  GMIT’s Executive Council has already taken several initiatives, including:  

First, immediately upon receiving news from the National Meteorological Agency, GMIT leadership called on the presbyteries to tell their congregations to exercise caution and stay away from coastal areas, rivers, and potential sites of landslides.

Second, the churches were opened to the public for emergency shelter.

Third, worship services scheduled for Monday 6 April (a service of Easter Thanksgiving, and typically a time for baptisms) should be held in members’ homes where possible.

Fourth, an emergency response center was opened at the Synod office.   Donations can be made to Bank BRI 2002-01-003847-53-0 in the name of Tim Tanggap Bencana MS GMIT.  Contact persons are: Rev. Mery Kolimon (Telp/WA +62-813-3946-9002) and Rev. Paoina Bara Pa (Telp/WA: +62-822-3752-3160).

Fifth, coordinating with regional and national government to provide aid to people who have been displaced from their homes and to help find and evacuate victims of the storm.

In addition to prayers of support, Rev. Kolimon explained that aid most needed at present includes: staple foods, drinking water, cash, medicines and medical care, clothing, diapers, sanitary napkins, soap, toothpaste, tarps, sleeping mats, and basic building supplies.

The GMIT Executive Council also expresses its thanks to all who have extended aid in this crisis, especially to all the members of GMIT congregations who stood shoulder-to-shoulder to help victims, and who opened their church buildings as temporary shelters and public kitchens. ***

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