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
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.