DILI, 18 March 2020 (TATOLI)- Monsoonal rain and obstructed storm drains have combined to create a disaster in many parts of Dili, with 1,105 families and some 6,000 people affected.
Authorities confirmed one boy died during the flood in the Becuse river area. Alegrio Bento, 16, was pulled from the river by a bystander and taken to a clinic, but he couldn’t be revived.
His rescuer found him naked because the force of the water washed away his clothes.
Witness Terezinha Maia told TATOLI that the victim drowned soon after saving a woman and her baby passing through the river.
Director-General of the State Secretariat for Civil Protection (SEPS), Chief of Police Ismael da Costa Babo said almost all areas in Dili were inundated.
“Comoro was also inundated, but no houses were affected. Most of the inundated houses were in central areas to the east, such as Hera. Becora, Becuse, Bidau, Taibesse, Kuluhun, and Santa Cruz,” the Police Chief told Tatoli from his Office in Dili today.
Babo said SEPS had evacuated most families from the affected areas to temporary accommodation.
“Some residents chose to stay but others found their homes unlivable. 194 people were transferred to the Secretary of Civil Protection residence, a Fire Fighting station, or churches in Balide, Becora and Bidau,” he said.
“Normalise” Public Connectivity
Police Chief Ismael da Costa Babo said SEPS will provide the operational support to normalise public connectivity.
Work has begun to clean and remove debris from drains which have spilled all over the road network in an effort to return life to normal around this city.
SEPS is coordinating the effort, along with the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Education, electricity utility EDTL, local authorities and the general population.
On Monday, the Council of Ministers approved a two-day holiday for all employees to clean out the capital.
Since then, the Ministry of Public Works and City Council have cleaned out the drains with help from the Timor-Leste Defence Force, F-FDTL, employees, and students.
Timor’s charismatic former president, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, was also seen joining communities to help clean out the mud and debris that spilled over the roads and thwarted public activities.
Commissioner of Timor’s national police (PNTL) Faustino da Costa said officers were helping clean-up homes, schools, and the Presidential Palace.
“We have mobilised 1,200 officers to clean-up the communities affected,” Comm. Faustino said.
F-FDTL Commander, Major-General Lere Anan Timur, also organised 500 F-FDTL personnel to help clean up the Dili Capital, including schools and other affected areas.
“Emergency support to people is most important. There is no more war, so F-FDTL mission is to help people who are suffering. Such an attitude of social being has been of great value to our people and our nation,” Major Lere said.
The national government has convened “urgent” talks in Parliament to reach a solution for what is a frequent problem in the monsoon season. The opposition Democratic Party (PD) said the government should take moral responsibility to respond to the emergency and to the victims.
“Government should know what to prioritise, and this is to reinforce all institutions. We don’t yield to each other. if possible parliament should promote article 55 (Regiment from Parliament) to call for the government [to give] what emergency aid this nation needs for the prevention of Coronavirus, as well as for the inundation,” he said yesterday.
The president of parliament’s Committee E, Abel Pires da Silva, agreed.
“I ask all of us to pay great attention to this situation. This is serious situation. Not only was there destruction, but people lost their sources of income, their businesses, their restaurants,” he said.
Disaster Aid Arrives
SEPS has established 12 teams to identify the families most affected by the floods before distributing emergency support. Its medical team has begun distributing emergency support to evacuees and victims still in their homes.
“We have distributed emergency support such as noodles, rice, cooking oil, and other household goods to 198 victims in Hera, 20 in Santa Cruz, and 15 in Bidau Santana.
“[Support for] victims in the firefighting station and Imaculada da Conceição Balide (Church) will follow once our team has finished identifying those in need,” he told TATOLI yesterday.
Mr Babo said that support will also be provided for the victims whose houses were totally destroyed, but that it will be based on the General Political Criteria of National Disaster Risk – and will also depend on the budget.
“We will see the budget, and submit our proposal to the government, so that the leader can address this issue, and recover our communities’ homes,” he said.
Journalists: Eugenio pereira, Evaristo Ximenes Martins; additional reporting by Nelia Borges
Editors: Andrew Kaminsky; Robert Baird
Translation: Nelia Borges