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East Timor: ICRC assists people displaced by violence

05-09-1999 News Release 99/49

Geneva (ICRC) -- In a situation of mounting violence, random shooting and destruction, the ICRC in East Timor is trying to assist increasing numbers of displaced people in the capital Dili, after the announcement of the result of the consultation on the future of the island.

According to the first assessment done in Dili by ICRC teams today (Sunday), more than 25'000 civilians fled their homes and took shelter in seven main locations.

Of the displaced, up to two thousand people took shelter early this morning (Sunday) in the compound of the ICRC in Dili. Many more were staying in churches and in Catholic missions or fled to the surrounding hills.

During lulls in the violence in Dili, the ICRC and the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) were the only humanitarian organisations able to move in town. They distributed food and water to more than 5'000 people. The displaced people were also given bamboo mats, cooking sets, soap, water containers and other basic items.

Among the 25,000 displaced is a group of 10'000 people mainly of non-East Timorese origin who have been staying in the police headquarters close to the airport waiting to leave East Timor. Thousands of others have gathered in the harbour waiting to be evacuated by the navy. Several thousand have already left the island in this way.

Due to the security situation, the ICRC is only working in Dili. The ICRC has very limited information about the humanitarian situation outside the capital. It does not have comprehensive information about how many people have been killed or wounded.

The ICRC has delivered medical sup plies to the only functioning clinic in Dili and fears there is a serious risk of a disruption of emergency medical services. The ICRC is ready to step up its activities especially in the medical field by sending in a surgical team from Geneva.

The ICRC is worried about the degrading humanitarian situation in Timor and appeals to all parties to respect the Red Cross emblem and to facilitate the activities of humanitarian workers.

In West Timor, in Atambua across the East Timor border, the Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia), supported by the ICRC, is monitoring the humanitarian consequences of the increasing exodus from East Timor. An emergency stock and a medical post are being made ready to assist people in need.