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East Timor capital braces for 100,000 returnees

East Timor capital braces for 100,000 returnees: UNHCR.

30 September -- United Nations relief agencies today continued delivery of emergency supplies to thousands of East Timorese scattered throughout the territory as the capital braced for the return of up to 100,000 displaced persons.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 70,000 residents have returned to Dili so far, with another 30,000 expected to reach the capital soon. Humanitarian workers are working diligently to provide people coming down from the hills with basic services.

A 29-car inter-agency humanitarian convoy escorted by the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) arrived in Lospalos, delivering plastic sheeting, food, collapsible jerry cans and health kits. According to UN officials, a small child suffering from pneumonia and several other seriously ill people were evacuated by helicopter to the Portuguese hospital in Dili.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it will shift its food distribution strategy to land deliveries. The first distribution of rice, enough to feed 100,000 people for a month, is expected to take place Monday.

A UNHCR staff member joined an aerial assessment mission over the western portions of the territory by the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET). They reported seeing many houses burning in the towns of Maliana and Ermera. On return to Dili, the UNHCR staff member estimated that the level of devastation in the western area is worse than in the capital.

Meanwhile in West Timor, UNHCR estimated that there are 136,000 displaced East Timorese in the Atambua area. Other members of the UNHCR team visited five camps of displaced persons in the Kupang area.

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