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UN agencies step up aid to East Timor

UN agencies step up aid to East Timor as fuller scale of destruction emerges.

27 September -- The United Nations humanitarian assessment missions conducted over the weekend have brought back a clearer picture of the level of destruction in East Timor, a UN spokesman said in New York today.

In the town of Manatuto - previously home to some 15,000 people - an inter-agency mission escorted by the Australian-led multinational forces (INTERFET) reported about 80 percent of the buildings burned down. The city is considered to be one of the highest priorities for emergency assistance as little food or medicine is available.

Meanwhile in Baucau, the humanitarian agencies said they were satisfied there was sufficient infrastructure to provide a logistics base for distributing relief supplies to the eastern part of the island.

On the first aerial humanitarian assessment of the western sector a team travelled to the East Timor enclave of Oecussi, inside of West Timor, and to most of the western sector. It found most towns and villages largely destroyed.

The Indonesian government estimates that more than 200,000 East Timorese have fled to West Timor - with some 100,000 believed to be massed in the vicinity of the border town of Atambua in difficult conditions. UNICEF, the UN Children's Fund, yesterday flew in 20 tonnes of baby food, 120 family-sized tents and 20 community water tanks.

Meanwhile, as more East Timorese trickled back into the territory's capital Dili, UN agencies and their partners stepped up deliveries of humanitarian aid. The World Food Programme (WFP) had two successful air drops today of nine tonnes of humanitarian daily rations (HDRs) and three tons of High Protein Biscuits.

A very limited trucking capacity, lack of safe warehousing and a shortage of staff continue to hamper the relief operation from the airport and port in Dili, according to UN officials. In an effort to overcome this bottleneck, WFP is airlifting trucks from Cambodia which are expected to arrive in Dili in a few days.

In the latest political developments in New York, East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao held today a number of meetings with UN Secretariat officials, including Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette. He is expected to meet with Secretary-General Kofi Annan tomorrow.

Also tomorrow, a ministerial-level trilateral meeting is scheduled to be held at UN Headquarters, with the participation of the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Ali Alatas, Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama and the Secretary-General's Personal Representative for East Timor, Jamsheed Marker.

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