Flash floods in East Timor leave 1,000 homeless, UN mission says

An estimated 1,000 people were left homeless in eastern East Timor as a result of three days of heavy flooding that swept through the area earlier this week, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) reported today.
According to the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC), an 85-year-old woman drowned as a result of the flooding yesterday, while 540 people have already registered in shelters set up in a school and a church in the town of Lospalos, UNTAET said in a statement issued in Dili. District elders say the floods are the worst to hit the Lospalos area since 1954.

UNTAET has warned that the number of people in need of emergency assistance is expected to rise in the coming days as contact is made with surrounding areas cut off from Lospalos town by damaged roads, mudslides, and fallen trees. The nearby areas of Luro, Illiomar, and Mehara have reportedly been badly affected. Due to the current inaccessibility of these areas, 75 district civil servants are currently conducting an assessment by helicopter.

Peacekeepers in the area are providing support in setting up relief and protection centres and rescuing people from isolated areas. Teams from the Korean UN battalion have evacuated over 200 people from isolated areas and established a medical aid centre.

A convoy of vehicles travelling from Baucau to Lospalos carrying emergency supplies was forced to turn back today due to the severe damage caused to the road by the floods, which also destroyed an estimated 100 homes and the main bridge in Lospalos town. An operation to airlift these supplies will begin tomorrow.

NEOC officials anticipate the need for further external assistance over the coming days, including in the clearing of mud and debris from the affected areas, UNTAET said. The district may also need assistance with water purification, and storage and distribution resources. Relief food supplies for at least 1,000 people will be needed for up to one month.