WE NEED HELP – Impact of the Floods in Dili

In the early morning of April 4th 2021, Timor-Leste’s capital Dili was hit by severe flash floods and landslides, after several days of heavy rains brought by Cyclone Seroja. Houses along rivers were swept away, and thousands of people had to abandon their inundated homes to seek shelter. Other municipalities in Timor-Leste were also affected. More than 30.000 houses in the Southeast-Asian country with a population of 1.3 million were affected by the floods. More than 30 people died. Farm plantations were damaged, as well as roads, bridges and other infrastructure buildings, including schools and public buildings.
Four days after the flooding, the CPA team went to visit affected families, survivors who tell their stories how the floods took them by surprise, how they could only save the clothes they were wearing, and how they lost their belongings and food supplies. We see people standing knee deep in water in front of their homes, others started to shovel out the thick, hardened layers of mud covering everything in their living spaces. In some places, walls or whole houses collapsed.
Was the government of Timor-Leste prepared for a disaster like this? Were they able to support the affected citizen to minimize the damage, and come to their rescue? According to Celestino Gusmao Pereira, Coordinator of the Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis La'o Hamutuk, the country’s infrastructure doesn’t have the capacity to absorb a calamity of such magnitude. And the government, he says, acted too little, too late. What helped, however, was the immense support, solidarity and care for each other that came from Timor-Leste’s people themselves: Young people gathered their friends and started a GoFundMe campaign to finance urgent care packages for citizens who lost everything. They organized truckloads of food, cooking utensils, sleeping mats and blankets, and managed the logistics to distribute these care packages to the ones who need it most. Sport groups, religious groups and civil society organizations came together to help. The Red Cross Timor-Leste organized evacuations and shelters.
What prevention measures could the country take to avoid similar tragedies, and for the people to not be as strongly affected as they were by this recent big flood? Many of the affected people want to move back to their houses near rivers once the water has receded and their homes have been fixed; they say they have nowhere else to live.
From the government’s side, Hermenegilda da Costa Laurentina, President of the Institute of Equipment Management in Timor-Leste, says that the country experiences a rainy season every year, but didn’t expect the calamity that occurred on April 4. She says that the government responded timely to the disaster, but that their equipment is limited. The Ministry of Public Works, she says, mentioned plans to build new, safer neighborhoods elsewhere in the near future, for the people currently living in places near the rivers and lakes where it is unsafe.

  • Egas Bento
  • Egas Bento
  • Egas Bento
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature, Television
  • Runtime:
    31 minutes 26 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    April 5, 2021
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Distribution Information
  • Casa de Produção Audiovisual CPA Timor-Leste
    Country: Timor-Leste
    Rights: All Rights
Director - Egas Bento