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Timor Emergency Update

Timor Emergency Update

29 September 1999

East Timor

Amid scenes of jubilation more and more inhabitants of Dili are returning from the hills where they have been in hiding for weeks. UNHCR staff in the East Timorese capital estimate that thousands of people are coming back to Dili every day.

The returning population includes local staff members of the United Nations Mission in East Timor who are identifying themselves at the former U.N. compound. Aid agencies also report that civilians are coming forward to volunteer for the continuing relief effort.

UNHCR has continued to pick up wounded Timorese near Dili. A dozen people are brought each day to International Committee of Red Cross medical facilities with three- and four-week old injuries. Staff say that gangrene has set in already in many of the cases.

Around 1,300 Timorese are now gathered in Dili safe areas designated by U.N. forces and helped by UNHCR and NGOs. Several hundred people who were moved to safety under watch of Australian troops when UNHCR found they were awaiting deportation were today transferred from the port to another site in town. Agencies will not construct camps for the temporarily displaced in Dili, but will provide them with plastic sheeting, food and basic services until they can return to their homes.

Despite the improving security situation in Dili, U.N. troops last night identified several members of the anti-independence militia at the port.

Outside the capital, a first convoy of trucks carrying relief supplies today reached Baucau, East Timor's second largest town. Four UNHCR trucks carrying around 20 metric tons of blankets, plastic sheeting and food made the 130 km trip to Baucau and a second destination, Los Palos.

More UNHCR assistance is sent with U.N. soldiers as they reach new areas in East Timor. The shortage of trucks and secure warehouses has meant that supplies are often loaded onto military helicopters directly from aid flights as soon as they touch down at the airport. UNHCR will bring in ten larger trucks to Dili from Thailand to speed the delivery of assistance by road.


UNHCR and other agencies have increased their estimate of the number of people affected by the crisis in Timor. Assistance is now being planned for 200,000 people in East Timor, 150,000 in West Timor and 50,000 elsewhere, mainly on other Indonesian islands.

A second UNHCR-chartered Boeing 747 cargo aircraft landed today in Darwin, Australia, carrying 100 metric tons of emergency supplies. So far, UNHCR's Darwin base has gathered 85,000 of the overall humanitarian target of 140,000 blankets, 42,000 of 70,000 pieces of plastic sheeting, and 237,000 of the required 700,000 bars of soap.

To date 85 tons of UNHCR aid have reached Dili on a total of 6 flights from Darwin and Surabaya - UNHCR's two logistics hubs in the area - carrying blankets, plastic sheeting and jerry cans for up to 50,000 people.

West Timor

A member of the UNHCR-led mission on Wednesday left Kupang for the eastern town of Atambua which reportedly holds up to 100,000 East Timorese in squalid, makeshift camps controlled by anti-independence militia.

In Kupang the authorities insist on a 24-hour advance notice to the police before visiting the camps. UNHCR on Wednesday went to the sports stadium which the High Commissioner visited a week ago. UNHCR staff were accompanied by six policemen armed with automatic rifles and sticks. The stadium holds some 700 East Timorese, mainly women and children. 300 more are sheltering under tarpaulins around the stadium. There was enough food, water and sanitation facilities and no visible military or police presence in the area.

One man at the stadium alleged that at noon Tuesday, four men believed to be militias came in two cars and took away a Timorese farmer from Dili. The reason for the abduction and the fate of the man remain unknown. It was the first abduction reported from the sports stadium, although news reports of kidnappings, executions and separations blamed on militias are abundant in Jakarta.

The inter-agency mission will also try to gather information on the exclave of Ambeno on the northern coast of the island. The area is administratively part of East Timor but it is surrounded by West Timor territory. No agency has been able to travel to the area. But overflights by INTERFET helicopters have reported that the zone has suffered wide destruction and appears to be largely deserted.