Subject: SMH: Heavy rains cut off villages in East Timor

Sydney Morning Herald May 18, 2000

Heavy rains cut off villages

Dili: Heavy storms have left three districts in East Timor isolated after bridges and major roads were washed away, a senior United Nations official said yesterday.

The UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) held an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss the crisis.

Southern Viqueque district is cut off after two bridges were washed away this week.

Plans for a bypass over the Cuha River, about five kilometres north of the district capital, Viqueque, have been scrapped because of rapidly rising water.

UNTAET spokeswoman Ms Barbara Reis said the town was accessible only by helicopter, while the power station had only enough fuel to last 10 days. Other districts isolated are south-west Suai and eastern Los Palos.

UN staff have been forced to evacuate their compound in Suai after floodwaters surging through the building rose to half a metre.

Ms Maggs Macguiness, the UN's humanitarian affairs officer in Suai, said: "Roads are rapidly deteriorating. We're having our second monsoon rain season.

"Because of access problems, mountain villages are becoming more and more isolated. Three quarters of the [mountain] communities are cut off."

Months of rain have had a severe impact on recently returned refugees in the sub-districts of Fohorem, Fatu Mean and Fatu Luic, now facing hunger and economic hardship.

UNTAET's military spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Brynjar Nymo, said on Monday that heavy engineering equipment brought in by two army engineering battalions from Pakistan and Bangladesh could not be moved to where it was needed because of the fragile and narrow Timor roads.

Mark Dodd

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