On April 27, 2021, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Terra satellite acquired a true-color image of the Lesser Sunda Islands, a volcanic archipelago sitting in the Indian Ocean northwest of Australia. The bulk of the Lesser Sunda Islands belong to Indonesia, with the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste possessing the eastern half of the island of Timor, an exclave on the Indonesian (western) side of Timor, Atauro Island, and Jaco Island. Timor Island is the largest and most eastern island in this image.
The location and volcanic origin of the Lesser Sunda Islands gives them a warm, humid climate and places them at risk for earthquake, flooding, and tropical cyclones—as well as risk of eruption of a handful of active volcanoes. On April 3, Tropical Cyclone Serjoa formed south of Timor-Leste. It strengthened and moved slowly away from the islands, eventually making landfall in Australia. While the storm did not make landfall in the Lesser Sundas, it brought high wind, storm surge, and heavy rain that sparked severe flash flooding. Offshore waves were reported up to 20 feet (6 meters) high, while some media reported that the storm “turned small communities into wastelands of mud”. More than 100 people have been confirmed killed by the storm, landslides and flooding in eastern Indonesia and Timor-Leste, with many more remaining missing as of April 27.