Residents wade through waste-deep floodwaters at Tasi Tolu, in Dili's west on January 23 (Image/Antonio Gonçalves)

DILI, 24 January 2020 (TATOLI) – Monsoonal rain and choked storm drains have combined to create a disaster zone in low-lying parts of Dili, with 240 homes inundated, authorities said.

Director of Natural Disaster Risk Management, Agostinho Gomes de Jesus said 240 families from Madohi and Comoro Villages have been affected since Wednesday.

“Almost all the household stuff is destroyed,” he told TATOLI.

Residents sheltering from persistent rain on Wednesday and Thursday have returned home to find televisions, refrigerators, and furniture destroyed. Others found their homes completely unliveable.

The Secretariat of State for Social Protection (SEPS) has evacuated 77 people from the Tasi Tolu area, moving them to residece at Malinamuk Kampung-Baru firefighting headquarters, and the Dom Bosco centre in Comoro.

“We have evacuated 20 families… to a safer place, and others are still in [the] evacuation process,” Director Gomes said.

Residents would be able to return to their homes once the waters subside, he said. A medical team from the Comoro Health Centre is providing aid to evacuees, and SEPS has begun distributing emergency support to inundation victims still in their homes, such as rice, cooking oil and other supplies.

Images by Antonio Gonçalves

A group of young men pass the time with a online game of PUBG, after being forced from their homes at Bairru Kuarantena (Images/Antonio Gonçalves)

Fingers pointed at stormwater drains choked by debris

Madohi village chief, Bernardino Ferreira (Osória Marques)

In Comoro, Terra Santa Village Chief Bernardino Ferreira told TATOLI his neighbourhood’s stormwater ditches and waste-water pipes had been clogged with sludge, washed away from nearby road construction site.

“I went together with the Madohi police to talk talk to the company about the clogged [drains], but they didn’t give it [any] consideration,” Mr Ferreira said.

He said he shared his concerns with the “relevant ministry” because the company didn’t act “with consideration to the needs of the community.”

The top official in Bairru Kuarantena, Tomas João de Deus, also said the the Chinese construction firm building the nearby road at Tasi Tolu should have kept the pipes clear.

“We feel upset because the heavy rain has affected our home and destroyed all of our stuff,” Tomas said

Flood victim Arão Vitorino Soares, said it’s not the first time he’s had to deal with inundation, and authorities haven’t paid serious attention to vulnerable communities.

“We always suffer from the inundation. This is [my] seventh time now, but the government has not even [come to] see our place,” he said.

The Secretary of State for of Civil Protection (SEPS) did not respond to questions by deadline.

Read our coverage in the original Tetum here: Authorities Give Urgent Assistance to Flood Victims at Tasi Tolu; here Flooding Forces Airnorth to Park in Emergency Bays at Comoro Airport; and here SEPS: Some 240 Homes Suffer Flood Damage

Journalist: Osória Marques, Nelson de Sousa

Editors: Robert Baird; Francisco Simões

Translation: Nelia Borges

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