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UN mission finds wide destruction in ET towns

UN mission finds wide destruction in East Timor towns.

23 September -- As the situation in East Timor grew tense after shots were fired near a multinational force patrol travelling in UN vehicles, the United Nations mission in the territory said it had found wide devastation in several East Timorese towns.

A security officer with the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) conducted a two-hour helicopter survey of the towns of Ainaro, Sane, Suai, Ermera, Liquica and Maliana. The highest level of devastation was reported in Suai, with about 80 per cent of the town destroyed, while 17 UNAMET vehicles that had been left in Sane had all disappeared. In a separate patrol, UNAMET Chief Military Liaison Officer, Brigadier General Rezaqul Haider, travelled to Baucau with Major General Peter Cosgrove, the head of the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET), where they met with the local Indonesian army commander and discussed humanitarian issues.

Meanwhile, the international relief effort continued, with the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) stressing that restoration of basic healthcare services to the ravaged territory was an urgent priority and that health professionals, ahead of medical supplies, were needed to deal with maternal and child health and infectious disease control. "We could have boxes and boxes of supplies on hand, but there's no trained medical staff, mothers will die in childbirth," said Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that it had identified and gathered several hundred displaced persons in three sites in Dili, which were being guarded by Australian troops with INTERFET. The agency said Australian forces had also secured the capital's port area, stemming the tide of people who were being forced to leave East Timor and allowing UNHCR to determine who was departing voluntarily.

UNICEF, the UN Children's Fund, reported that its truck carrying 1.2 tonnes of baby food from West Timor for East Timor, which was turned back on the outskirts of Dili earlier this week, managed to arrive safely. Its cargo was transferred to smaller vehicles to be taken to hungry young children in mountain camps in East Timor. UNICEF said priority needs include baby food, sarongs, kitchen sets and other supplies to enable displaced families to set up housekeeping.

ENDS

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