East Timor: A month after floods 3,000 still homeless, half of families yet to get aid

More than half of the 33,000 families affected by floods in early April in East Timor have still not received support, a month after the disaster, with more than 3,000 people still homeless, according to the latest report.

The report prepared by the Ministry of State Administration, in coordination with the Mission Unit for Civil Protection and Natural Disaster Management, to which Lusa had access on Tuesday, shows that so far less than 15,000 families have been supported across the country.

The floods, which caused 32 dead and nine missing, presumed dead, destroyed or damaged almost 29,000 houses in several parts of the country, destroying over 3,700 hectares of agricultural fields, especially in the municipalities of Manatuto, Bobonaro, Liquiçá and Viqueque.

“At the level of public infrastructure, at least 42 national, regional and urban roads, 23 bridges that do not offer safety conditions and several public buildings have so far been identified,” the text stresses.

Regarding the capital, the report states that more than a month after the floods, there are still 3,012 people from 611 families in 16 temporary shelter centres, the largest number (836 people) at 12 de Outubro school, in Tasi Tolu.

Joaquim Gusmão Amaral, Secretary of State for Civil Protection, told Lusa that the authorities were still working, both in Dili and in other parts of the country, to deliver humanitarian support and to conclude the full assessment of the damage.

“Our preliminary request made to the Ministry of Finance and using the Contingency Fund is to channel support to 50,000 families, amounting to almost $55 million [45.3 million euros],” he said.

“At this moment, and according to the most recent balance sheet, there are 33,280 affected families registered throughout the country, the majority in Dili, to whom, for now, we are providing food and non-food support,” he stressed.

Some support in terms of construction material has already started – a shipment is going to the island of Ataúro this week, for example – but most of it still needs the approval of the Ministry of Finance.

In Dili alone, for example, Joaquim Amaral explains that a total of 611 houses totally destroyed, 991 with medium destruction and 1,043 with light destruction have already been registered.

There is already data from various parts of the country, although in some cases, getting support through is proving difficult, due to road or bridge cuts, he explained.

“We still have people in very bad situations, especially in more remote areas, with roads cut, and where we still have access difficulties. We identified some populations, for example in Turiscai, Laclubar or Laclo, that were isolated, but where we were able to get some support, using the helicopter provided with support from Australia”, he noted.

The Secretary of State explained that, for now, the authorities are distributing materials, including support given by development partners.

Those who lost their houses receive about US$477 (392 euros) of support in construction material – zinc, nails, iron and cement – and another US$368 (303 euros) for labour and to buy wood.