The Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF) has undertaken emergency repairs to several roads, culverts, drains and a school in Dili, after receiving a late night request from East Timor’s President, Jose Ramos-Horta.
Heavy rain over several days caused minor flooding and landslides in the Dili area, putting a number of roads, schools and building at risk of serious damage.
ISF Commander Colonel Mick Reilly received the call on Sunday 6 February and realised the situation demanded immediate action.
“Dili is closely surrounded by mountains, so during the wet season they act like funnels, channeling the water down onto the city below. After heavy rain, such as what happened over the last few days, it was inevitable roads and homes would be at risk,” Colonel Reilly said.
After attending a briefing at the Presidential Palace, Colonel Reilly and an ISF engineering team immediately agreed to evaluate the areas most in need of assistance.
By 2.30am, having made an onsite evaluation with the Prime Minister of East Timor, Xanana Gusmão, Colonel Reilly advised the Prime Minister that ISF possessed the capability to make the repairs and would begin work within hours.
At 8.00am a team of over 30 ANZAC team members and the Dili Fire Brigade — using a combination of ‘elbow grease’ and heavy earth moving equipment — had commenced work. Their tasks primarily consisted of removing silt and debris which had completely blocked drainage pipes, covered a major section of road and threatened to flood a school.
ISF Combat Engineer, Lieutenant Gary Breen, said the build up of silt and debris had reached a critical point.
“The drains and culverts were completely blocked around the road intersection and were starting to dissolve the roads’ foundations. Another day or two of heavy rain and it would have been beyond repair,” Lt Breen explained.
By 6.30pm the work was completed and the two sites had been spared from major damage.
While visiting the work sites, the Prime Minister thanked the ISF for their assistance and commented that the seasonal floods and landslides in Dili were quite small when compared to the experiences of Queensland residents.
“I was really proud of the efforts of ISF. Many of those volunteering to help come from cyclone- and flood-ravaged Queensland and Victoria. Although they can’t be in Australia helping out, assisting Dili residents to save their homes and schools, is no less important work,” Colonel Reilly said.
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