Subject: RT: Deadly asbestos plagues E.Timor's reconstruction

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Deadly asbestos plagues E.Timor's reconstruction

By Kurt Schork

DILI, East Timor, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Cancer-causing asbestos found in ruined houses across East Timor is complicating the job of rebuilding this former Indonesian province.

Sheets of asbestos, long banned as a building material in many countries, lie burnt and broken amongst the rubble of East Timor's devastated towns, releasing deadly fibres into the air.

``There was a lot of asbestos in the roofs and walls of these houses and now that material has been burned and broken so the asbestos is made airborne by people scavenging to rebuild,'' Australian construction expert Tony Medina said on Tuesday.

``There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. This is a difficult issue that must be considered as a part of East Timor's overall reconstruction. People's lives are at stake.''

Medina is part of an international group of 20 trade union construction experts now arriving in East Timor as part of CARE Australia's initiative to help rebuild this shattered society.

Pro-Jakarta militias ravaged the territory in September after people here voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence in a U.N.-supervised referendum on August 30.

U.N. officials, who are running East Timor for the next few years until it assumes full independence and self-government, say it will take years to recover from the militia destruction.

Heavy seasonal rains have begun in some parts of East Timor and many people cannot wait for the international community to help them get a water-tight roof over their heads.

Locals are picking through destroyed and badly damaged buildings, scavenging whatever they can and unwittingly stirring up asbestos-laden dust that could prove deadly.

``Our reconstruction and assessment teams have found asbestos throughout the majority of the buildings in Dili,'' said Jacqueline Pascarl-Gillespie of CARE Australia.

``It is highly carcinogenic. We are bringing in suits and masks for our builders to use but people are rummaging through damaged buildings with no idea that they may not realise for 20 years that they have polluted their lungs.''

Microscopic asbestos fibres can cause serious long-term lung damage once inhaled, leading to cancer or a debilitating lung disease known as asbestosis.

CARE on Tuesday shipped in 13 pre-fabricated buildings that will be distributed throughout East Timor and used as medical clinics and sleeping quarters by local communities.

Most of the international shelter assistance to East Timor to date has been in the form of plastic sheeting.

U.N. officials say it will still be some time before major quantities of roofing timber, corrugated iron and concrete can be made available here for large-scale residential reconstruction.

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