East Timor Crisis: Massive aid effort poised to follow the troops in

THE UNITED Nations said yesterday it would launch a full-scale humanitarian aid effort in East Timor as soon as it was safe to begin relief operations on the ground.

Ross Mountain, the UN High Commission for Refugees' humanitarian co-ordinator for East Timor, flew to the capital, Dili, on one of the first planes out of the northern Australian city of Darwin. He will help conduct a detailed assessment of the location and plight of up to 300,000 refugees.

A massive amount of food and other supplies is accumulating in Darwin, the hub of the aid operation, waiting to be flown or shipped across the Timor Sea. It includes a field hospital, ambulances and medical supplies brought in by the Portuguese government, which are intended to fill the role of the civilian hospital in Dili, now looted and deserted by all but six nurses.

One hundred tons of rice arrived in Darwin yesterday, organised by AusAid, the federal government's central aid distribution agency. Also stockpiled are 60 tons of high-protein biscuits, 200,000 "humanitarian daily rations" and 50 tons of materials such as plastic sheeting, cooking utensils and water containers.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, working from Indonesia, has already begun limited operations on the ground in East Timor, delivering food and medical supplies to 90,000 people living in desperate conditions near the town of Dare.

The World Food Programme will today resume air drops to refugees who are hiding in remote areas after fleeing a wave of violence unleashed by militia opposed to independence for the province. The air drops were interrupted for two days because the C-130 Hercules planes lent by the Royal Australian Air Force were being used to transport troops from the multi-national force.

Asked when the main relief effort would begin, David Wimhurst, spokesman for Unamet, the UN mission in East Timor, said yesterday: "We would expect fairly shortly the arrival of planes carrying supplies."

Abbey Spring, a spokeswoman for the World Food Programme, said yesterday that there were particular fears for pregnant women, elderly people and children. "These are people that didn't have a lot of food to begin with and went into the situation hungry, so we are concerned," she said.

Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao, the exiled East Timorese independence leader who flew to Darwin on Sunday from Jakarta, was under guard at an undisclosed location yesterday because of concerns for his safety. He will meet Ian Martin, head of Unamet, when Mr Martin returns from Dili later this week.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high