The capital of East Timor, Dili, is reeling after flood waters swept through the city on the weekend, leaving at least 27 dead. The President of East Timor, Francisco Guterres Lú-Olo, described the floods as a ‘great calamity’.
Arquimedes Key Bernat Plewe studied at Southern Cross University in Lismore and now lives in Dili.
He told The Echo, ‘I am ok, but otherwise it is an absolute tragedy. Hospital, warehouse with all meds, labs all flooded, corpses floating through town and rivers, so many homeless families and there was a hunger crises already before that because we are in the midst of covid finally hitting the country and are in lockdown….it is heartbreaking.’
Another local man, Jay Nick, said ‘Dili and other districts in Timor Leste have been affected by huge rains and flooding. So devastating. Thousands of houses are gone and some peoples have lost their loved ones.’
The young democracy of East Timor was already hard-hit by COVID-19 when the flooding started. The national COVID testing laboratory was also flooded on the weekend, although testing equipment has reportedly been saved.
With thousands of citizens crammed into refugee centres, there are fears that case numbers will soar.
The ABC is reporting that a plane carrying East Timor’s first batch of vaccines has landed safely despite the flooding.
Member for Lismore and East Timor expert Janelle Saffin says the best way people can help at the moment is to support the Timor-Leste Easter Floods Disaster Relief appeal established by Mick Stone.
The appeal is raising money to purchase food, basic supplies and temporary shelter to those affected by the floods and landslides in East Timor.
The Australian Government has said it is ready to help, but it’s not yet clear what form that assistance will take.
Mr Bernat Plewe says that the situation in the country remains chaotic, with little official news from the districts beyond Dili.
‘Many are cut off because of landslides, whole bridges have been washing away.’
He also wanted people to know that LGBTIQ+ community members are one of the most marginalised groups in the East Timor. ‘They would not go to evacuation centres in fear of being discriminated against,’ he said.
‘That is why i am collecting direct donations. I have been distributing to private households where people found shelter and am visiting two community organisations today so they can distribute food as well.’
Anybody who would like to assist with that can contact him directly via email: [email protected].
The following film includes a compile of social media images to give a sense of the scale of the devastation: