ISF — Late night call for help — troops in East Timor repair flood damage in Dili

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. 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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