Church springs to aid of Timor-Leste flood victims

Five consecutive days of heavy rains kill three, inundate several districts
Church springs to aid of Timor-Leste flood victims

Nuns distribute aid to villagers hit by severe flooding in Timor Leste’s Manufahi district. (Photo supplied by Father Bastian Gaguk).

Franciscan priests and nuns in Timor-Leste have distributed aid relief to flood victims following five consecutive days of heavy rain that reportedly killed three people, submerged many homes and destroyed crops.

More assistance is expected from churchgoers and the government over the next few days.

The May 8-12 rains caused the Au River to overflow, submerging the homes of hundreds of people in Fatuberliu, in Manufahi district, about 190 kilometers south of the capital Dili.

Several other districts were also affected.

Local parish priest, Franciscan Father Bastian Gaguk, said the floods had also damaged a key bridge over the La Maran river, cutting villagers off from the nearest main town.

"It’s seriously affecting these poor people, who are mostly farmers,” he told ucanews.com.

Father Gaguk said Franciscan priests and sisters of the St. Francis of the Martyr St. George order had distributed one ton of rice, noodles, cooking oil and children’s clothes. But he said much more was needed and appealed for more church people to assist.

"Local students are collecting rice and other donations,” he said.

The priest said he was worried about possible outbreaks of disease.

"It’s important to pay attention to prevent people, particularly children and infants, falling sick.”

Manuel Sarmento, 62, a local community leader, told ucanews.com the flood struck at night while people were sleeping so many villagers were unable to save anything.

“Their crops were washed away as were livestock and pets,” he said.

“People have been left with nothing,” he said.

As of May 15, only 36 families had received emergency assistance from local authorities.

The aid was meager with each family, receiving 25kg of rice, cooking oil, a tarpaulin, and buckets, according to Sarmento.

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He said the situation would get worse because houses are filled with mud.

"We hope the central government will step in," he said

Secretary of State for Civil Protection, Alexandrino Araujo told local daily Suara Timor-Lorosae on May 15 that the government is moving to help flood victims.

He said three people died during the flooding. One died in a house collapse in Viqueque district, while the other two were swept away by floodwater in Lautem and Manufahi districts.

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