Dreadful sacred lotus

Seroja, if you google it, you’ll get a translation of Sacred Lotus, a beautiful water plant that comes in different colour of yellow, pink or purple. Commonly known in English as water lily, Seroja is a beautiful flower. It usually symbolises innocence and purity. Some culture even associate it with spirituality. Yet, the Seroja, that we know of recently, wasn’t beautiful and kind at all, instead deadly.

Saturday March 26, 2021

“Are we camping during Easter Break? We can either camp at the beach or go on a land trip again for a few days. Maybe, we take the southern route this time?”, I said to my wife.

I was thinking about going through Kolbano and drive along the south coast of Timor island, and head toward southern region of Belu, a neighboring district to Timor Leste.

Ash Wednesday, March 31, 2021

We were already decided not to take any trip that week. We couldn’t even consider camping as it had been raining that day and when checking the weather forecast, I found that the rain would still come for the rest of the week. I was hopeful that at least during the weekend the weather would clear a bit, so we could get to the beach. It was supposed to be a weekend that everyone was looking forward to. Our office had two days of public holiday, Friday and Monday. It was a long weekend. It should have been great.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

I said goodbye to the team in our chatroom. Every one was jolly. The spirit was high. We wished each other a great long Easter break. It was a perfect week before holidays. We finished most of our target tasks that week. We all had the same thought, no backlog work for we could enjoy our long weekend.

I picked up my sister and mother from my parent’s house. Maybe we could go for a drive in the morning. It should be nice. The weather seemed improving.

Good Friday, April 2, 2021

We got up before dawn and prepared for our trip to see the sunrise. As we were about to get on the car, it started to drizzle and then rained. We laughed and retrieved back inside the house and were just relaxing. We cancelled our trip. The rain stopped but it was a bit windy. Later in the afternoon, I decided to take my sister and mother home. It was still raining when Riva carried my sister down from the car to her wheelchair when we dropped her off. It then rained heavily in the evening. It was a good decision I thought that we took them both home.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

The rain poured down heavily throughout the night and continued in the morning but stopped around 9 AM. My wife and I had the same idea to go shopping while it was raining. Even though it was a weekend, Hypermart would be less crowded as people wouldn’t go out. On the way to Hypermart, I had to take a detour since some parts of the road were flooded already. It felt strange to have this much of rain during this time of the year

“This is a bit too late for Musim Barat”, I thought.

For people in Kupang, Musim Barat is the name we have for windy and heavy rain season of the year. It usually occurs around late January to early February, just before the Chinese new year.

We were able to finish our grocery shopping. Only Kayla came with us to the grocery store. As expected, not many people came out that morning. It was quite pleasant. The weather was mild and Kayla had a good time running around at the parking lot.

When we got home , the day turned dark. It was raining again, but this time, the wind started to pick up the pace.

I check on the weather, it was going to be bad, a storm was coming, they even had a name for it, Seroja, the sacred lotus.

Posts on Facebook from friends were trending about the rain and the gusty wind. In the afternoon, a friend posted some photos of her parent’s place that was flooded. Some videos of overflown rivers in the city started to appear more frequently on Whatsapp and Facebook newsfeed.

I started to monitor the weather on windy.com, Indonesian and Australian Weather bureau. Things were not looking good. Philippines experience typhoon season every year and I knew if the weather experts had given a name to a storm, that was not a good sign at all.

Windy.Com

We were preparing for the worse to happen.

Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021

The gusty wind was blowing even harder then.

A warning came that a big storm was expected starting 2 pm onwards. It was true by around 1pm, the rain poured heavily and the wind blew even harder. Electricity started to drop on and off and eventually we lost the electricity by 3 pm. I was watching the big trees near our house swaying ferociously fighting hard for the wind. I wasn’t sure if they could last. People started posting prayers on social media.

As the day turned to evening, the wind calmed down a bit, but I was suspicious. It could be a deceiving calm before the rage.

I was right a couple of hours later, the rain poured heavily as if God was upset to us. We just stayed inside our room, praying that our roof wouldn’t be blown away.

The gusty wind and the rain didn’t show any sign of stopping, instead the wind was blowing even harder. I told my wife to start preparing for the worst. She hadn’t been feeling well for the last two days, but had to force her self to start packing some clothes, collected her gold wedding necklace and some key documents. I started packing a couple of flashlights, some canned food, instant noodles, utensils for the three of us, and some bottles of water. I asked Riva to put on the collars to our all our dogs and get their leash ready.

“If we have to evacuate, Kak Edenn will take Kayla and the bag of clothes. I will take the bag of food, with Amber and Merlin. You will bring your bag pack, the tent and Maxi with you. Please don’t lock the gate tonight so if we need to take the car out it’ll be quickly. Don’t worry about all our belongings, as long as we are all safe.” I said to Riva.

I didn’t think we could take the car out in the emergency situation because the roads would be blocked with debris.

We were planning for an evacuation. In my head, I ran through the routes and places that we could seek refuge to. I was worried about my disabled sister and parents who live just about 400-500 meters from the beach. It would be hard to evacuate her if things got worse. Neither my father nor my mother could carry her out from the house.

Although, we didn’t have electricity anymore, mobile network was still working. I was still in contact with some friends, Ali on the other side of the town and Uben who lives in a remote island of Sabu. I told Uben to brace for the storm because it was coming through his place.

The storm raged all night long and reached the peak by 3 am.

The aftermath – Monday, April 5, 2021

I went out. It was around six or to six thirty. The storm miraculously had stopped. There was only a breeze. My wife was out in the yard. She didn’t sleep at all and had been busy outside. The rain had stopped. It was calm. Torn leaves and twigs were scattered all over the place.

“Oh no! Do we still have the roof on our house?”, the first thing that I thought of.

Our place was a mess. A mango tree at our neighbor fell down blocking the road. Our neighbour across the road, Pak Tom, lost the roof of his home. I quickly checked on our home. It was all intact. We were lucky.

“When I got up, our lime trees fell down to the ground but I’ve fixed them already, I hope they will survive”, My wife said to me when I came to her.

The road in front of our house

We were lucky, we escaped what could have been worse. I called on my parents, they were also safe and their house was intact too. Yet, not all were as lucky, many lost their homes. Seroja’s wrath was all over the city, trees were down on the ground, electric poles fell down. I was worried and sad at the same time. The whole city lost the power. It might take long before we got all the power back, not any time soon.

Our garden after the cyclone
Kupang old china town (source unknown)
Kupang old china town (source unknown)
Houses were destroyed. A common sight across the town after the cyclone (Source; Unknown)
Many electrical poles couldn’t stand the gusty wind.
No wonder it took days for the electricity company to bring the power back on (Source: Unknown)

April 5, 2021

Like the cyclone never happened, the weather was clear the next day. The day was warm, the sun was up in the sky. I was surprised with how blue the sky turned out that day. I slept outside on our porch at night and I had never seen such a clear sky that night. All the stars came out because the whole city was in black out.

It was serene, a perfect beautiful night after the storm.

I later found out that the southern region of Belu was all flooded. A bridge collapsed. That was the area that we wanted to go to on a land trip. I can’t Imagine what happened if we had taken the trip.

As of April 17, 2021, the government data recorded that the cyclone and the flashflood claimed 181 lives, with 47 others reportedly missing.

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