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Army February 17, 2011
Fighting floods in Dili
By Leut Alistair Tomlinson
THE Australian-led International
Stabilisation Force (ISF) has under-
taken emergency repairs to sev-
eral 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 buildings at risk of
ISF Commander Col Mick Reilly
received the phone call on February
6 and realised the situation demanded
"Dili is closely surrounded by
mountains, so during the wet season
they act like funnels, channelling the
water down onto the city below," he
"After heavy rain, such as what
happened over the past few days, it
was inevitable roads and homes would
be at risk."
After attending a briefing at the
Presidential Palace shortly after
receiving the call, Col Reilly and an
ISF engineering team immediately
agreed to evaluate the areas most in
need of assistance.
By 2.30am, having made an on-site
evaluation with East Timor's Prime
Minister, Xanana Gusmao, Col Reilly
advised that ISF possessed the capa-
bility to make the repairs and would
begin work within hours.
At 8am a team of more than 30
Anzac Company members and the
Dili Fire Brigade -- using a combina-
tion of elbow grease and heavy earth
moving equipment -- had started work.
Their tasks primarily involved
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 Lt 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 dis-
solve the road's foundations," he said.
"Another day or two of heavy rain
and it would have been beyond repair."
By 6.30pm, the work was complet-
ed and the two sites had been spared
from major damage.
While visiting the work sites,
Prime Minister Gusmao thanked the
ISF for their assistance and com-
mented that the seasonal floods and
landslides in Dili were quite small
compared to the experiences of
"I was really proud of the efforts of
ISF," Col Reilly said.
"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."
Drain cleaner: Engineers work with East Timorese fire fighters to clear sludge from storm drains after
the floods, above, while East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao speaks with Lt Gary Breen about
the flood clean-up operation, inset.
Photos by LAC Leigh Cameron
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