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Timor Leste

Salesians build shelter for Timor-Leste flood victims

Many people remain homeless more than a month after Tropical Cyclone Seroja ravaged the country

Salesians build shelter for Timor-Leste flood victims

Archbishop Virgílio Do Carmo da Silva of Dili opens a shelter built by Salesians for flood victims on May 17. (Photo supplied)

Salesians in Timor-Leste have built a shelter for dozens of families still homeless after flash floods ravaged the predominantly Catholic country over the Easter weekend last month.

The shelter was built behind the Salesian-run technical and professional center in Comoro, on the outskirts of the capital Dili, as temporary living quarters for 189 people from 39 families.

Father Jolino Vieira, formator at the Salesian post-novitiate house in Comoro who is helping to look after the displaced, said the shelter was built by priests as well as teachers and students from the center.

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“As a result of their hard work and collaboration, the facility was completed professionally in a very short time — 20 days,” he said.

The shelter has 20 rooms and 19 tents kitted out with sleeping mats, cooking utensils and a little table, he told UCA News on May 21.

“We have distributed kitchen stuff to each family. Every month they will receive one sack of rice and oil. Other foodstuffs they have to find for themselves. They can now cook their own food instead of relying on what we provided,” the priest said.

The Salesian compound in Comoro was one of several places that took in the many people who fled their homes due to floods and landslides

He said the shelter was opened and blessed by Archbishop Virgílio Do Carmo da Silva of Dili on May 17 in a small ceremony attended by Salesian Provincial Father Apolinário Ornai Maria Neto, the families and government officials.

It’s not yet know how long the families will have to stay there, he added.

The government has pledged to rebuild their homes but has not said when.

The Salesian compound in Comoro was one of several places that took in the many people who fled their homes due to floods and landslides triggered by Tropical Cyclone Seroja that struck the country on Easter Sunday.

The disaster affected all 13 municipalities in the country, with the capital Dili and the surrounding low-lying areas the worst affected. A total of 41 deaths were recorded in Timor-Leste, while 181 died in neighboring Indonesia.

It also damaged 2,163 hectares of agricultural land, raising fears of impending food shortages.

The Salesians originally took in 500 families who fled their homes, according to Father Vieira.

Miguel Perreira de Carvalho, the state and administration minister, has said the homes of 25,000 families need repairing and that President Francisco Guterres had approved funding of US$55 million for that purpose.

Other church groups are involved in emergency relief and recovery efforts.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Timor (CET) was providing emergency assistance and helped build 15 new houses, its executive secretary Father Leandro Maria Alves said

Meanwhile, the Church's social arm Caritas is looking to help repair 58 houses, of which 10 were heavily damaged, 23 moderately damaged and 25 slightly damaged.

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