Flash floods, sparked by incessant rainfall in parts of Timor Island over the last few days, have hit 21 villages in Belu regency, West Nusa Tenggara, a local official said Tuesday.
No casualties were reported from the incident, but thousands of houses and vast areas of agricultural land were flooded up to one meter, head of Belu Social Service Office Arnold Bria said.
Arnold said the flash floods were primarily caused by the Benenain River overflowing because it could not accommodate flood water from the North and South Central Timor regencies.
"The flash floods have displaced thousands of people who have temporarily moved to safer areas while waiting for the water to subside," he said.
He said that the local administration had distributed emergency assistance to flood victims including food and clean water.
"We have sent three water tankers to meet the demand for clean water because existing wells have been covered by mud and other debris," he said. A medical team, including several doctors, has also been deployed to assist victims.
He said that the worst hit area was the West Malaka district with 13 flooded villages, followed by Weilemas district with four flooded villages and Malaka district with five.
Meanwhile, Remigius Asa, head of Malaka district, said the floods started to hit the region Saturday after incessant rainfall surrounding Mt. Mutis in the North and South Central Timor regencies.
"These areas are located at the mouth of the Benenain River so heavy rainfall in higher areas ends up inundating our region," Remigius said.
According to Remigius, there is yet to be an order to evacuate victims in his district, but his office has urged local people to be alert for further flooding.
"We will only start evacuating victims if the river overflows, causing water levels to rise," he said.
Besides hitting residential areas, the flash floods also inundated more than 2,000 hectares of paddy fields. This will most likely result in harvest failure due to the fact the fields are now covered with mud and garbage.
"We're still assessing the damage, including how many livestock were lost in the flooding," Remigius said.
Heavy downpours Wednesday intensified floods in Belu regency, East Nusa Tenggara, with floodwater reaching two meters high in some villages.
Belu deputy regent Gregorius Mau Bili said Wednesday that at least 23 villages in three districts were flooded. The water subsided for several hours but then rose again.
"There are no casualties but thousands of residents had to flee to safety since water from the Benenain River continued increasing following heavy downpours," he said.
The administration, he said, had urged residents to leave their homes immediately and stay alert to prevent injuries and deaths.
"There is no data on the financial loss or the number of residents directly affected by the floods, since district officials are still working in the field," Gregorius added.
He said the regency had issued a policy calling for the relocation of residents living along riverbanks or in flood-prone areas.
"We're currently approaching some community leaders in the hope that they will allow us to use their land as relocation sites," he said.
The regency is also working to build dams along the Benenain River to prevent future flooding, he added.
Gregorius said the government had started distributing basic necessities including food, clean water and medical supplies to the flood victims.
"In the meantime, the regency administration is handling the flood victims' needs."
Remigius Asa, the head of the worst-hit district, West Malaka, said several victims had started suffering from breathing problems and skin rashes. He blamed the diseases on poor sanitation.
"Residents drink and bathe in dirty water so they get sick easily," he said.
The floods hit 14 villages in West Malaka, four villages in Weilemar and five villages in Central Malaka on Saturday.