Mon, 22 May 2000

Floods engulfs West Timor area

JAKARTA (JP): Some 300 square kilometers of West Timor are under water following days of incessant rain in the area last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said over the weekend.

UNHCR said that aerial reconnaissance photos show an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the houses in the south-eastern areas of West Timor have been destroyed and a further 25 percent damaged.

At least 140 people, the majority them East Timorese refugee women and children, are believed to have been killed after serious flooding in Betun region, Belu district. So far the confirmed death toll is only 83.

UNHCR said that as of Friday evening, 21,000 people were estimated to have been displaced. 16,000 of them were staying in 21 camps in the area.

The subdistricts of Central Malaka and West Malaka are the most badly affected.

It added that 53 people had died in Central Malaka, 28 in West Malaka and two in the Kefamenanu area.

According to UN agencies operating on the ground, at least 80 people are reported missing.

According to UNHCR, the floods are the worst reported in East Nusa Tenggara in 22 years.

Five World Food Program (WFP) trucks with 20,000 full-day rations and one truck with fuel left on Friday morning from Dili. They were scheduled to arrive in Betun later in the evening.

A WFP helicopter has also airlifted three and a half tons of supplies to the affected area. International Organization of Migration trucks also left Friday with plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, cooking utensils and other items.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has supplies of rice, oil and other basic necessities in the area and WFP has about 40 tons of fish in storage in Suai which can be transported over the border should the need arise.

UNHCR said East Timor, Suai and Los Palos districts remain isolated. However, access to Viqueque was restored on Friday through a bypass road. Power is being supplied for only 18 hours a day in order to ration fuel.(byg)