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DATE=10/17/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=TIMOR AID NUMBER=5-44534 BYLINE=GARY THOMAS DATELINE=DILI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The vote for independence in the territory of East Timor was followed by a wave of violence by militias bitterly opposed to breaking away from Indonesia. Thousands of families were separated as people fled for safety. As correspondent Gary Thomas reports, one of the initial tasks now is helping families find each other. TEXT: At the Red Cross building in Dili, a crowd gathers every day looking for hope. Some scan the bulletin board, looking for a message. Others stand in line to make a telephone call. All have one common goal: to find and get in touch with their lost relatives. Jose -- he does not want to give any other name -- is calling the other side of the island of Timor to find his brother. He is using the Red Cross satellite telephone because such phones are now the only ones that work in East Timor. // JOSE ON TELEPHONE // He says that when the fighting started, his brother headed west, while he went to the safety of the hills. He says he knows his brother is somewhere in Kupang. Hundreds-of-thousands of people fled the chaos of early September, when pro-Jakarta militias went on a rampage that decimated East Timor's infrastructure. An estimated 260- thousand people crossed into Indonesian West Timor. U-N officials estimate 400-thousand more are missing and presumed to be in hiding, too frightened to leave their sanctuaries in the hills. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the I-C-R-C, has set up a tracing center in Dili to help reunite separated families. Red Cross spokeswoman Amanda Williamson says the agency is acting as a message hub for families in both East and West Timor. // WILLIAMSON ACT // They are allowed here to write what we call a Red Cross message. It is a very short note to say hello, I am in Dili, I am safe and well. And we collect those and then we send them over to our office in Kupang and they then distribute them around the camps there. // END ACT // Delio Amadeu Correia is waiting to use the phone. He is trying to find a way to get his brother back to Dili from Kupang on a refugee flight. But he says the militia will not let his brother go, and is trying to press him into service. // CORREIA LANG ACT // Ms. Williamson said most of the refugees who come to the Red Cross actually know where their relatives are, or least have an idea of what area they might be in. She says most are in the West Timor towns of Kupang or Atmabau. // WILLIAMSON ACT // So if people of course have a phone number -- and it is amazing how many people have a small piece of paper with a phone number of their relatives, mainly in Australia, for example -- then they can make a satellite call. And around 30 to 40-people every day are managing to be put back in contact with their relatives in that way. // END ACT // But there are still thousands of people unaccounted for. Fear continues to keep families apart, as only a trickle of people have returned to find there is little to return to. (SIGNED) NEB/GPT/RAE 17-Oct-1999 12:20 PM EDT (17-Oct-1999 1620 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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