Bishops call for prayers and help for Queensland victims.
PERTH, Australia (CNS) — Australia’s Catholic bishops have issued an urgent call for prayers for those who have died and for material assistance for survivors of Queensland state flooding that, by mid-January, had claimed 13 lives.
“We offer prayers for the deceased and their families and the relief workers and all who are suffering as a result of the floods,” Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby said in a Jan. 13 statement.
“The priests, religious and faithful in the affected areas would certainly appreciate prayerful support and whatever assistance can be offered.”
The Queensland chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, whose staff have abandoned several of its premises because of the floods, set up a flood relief committee in response to the plight of more than 200,000 people affected in at least two dozen towns.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh described the reconstruction task of “postwar proportions.” The floods are estimated to have already caused nearly $5 billion in damages, devastating much of Australia’s coal, beef and agricultural industries.
Archbishop Bathersby said many parishes and schools have opened their doors to assist those affected, while the central archdiocesan office has closed due to power outages.
Father John Conway, administrator of three parishes in the affected area, spoke of the heroism of the people.
“This is the biggest disaster that has ever happened here, but the response from people in the area has been just phenomenal,” Father Conway said, while also expressing gratitude to laypeople and religious across Australia who have phoned to offer support.
“I’ve seen people who have been evacuated from their homes working in emergency centers,” he said. “They are reaching out even in the midst of their own crises.
Many places still have no drinking water. Roads are damaged, so trucks can’t get through. We can’t get fuel, milk, bread. We’re basically rationing everything.”
Brian Moore, president of the Queensland state chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, said thousands of families lost everything in the Christmas floods and rain that continued afterward: “Flood victims may have to wait some period of time to recover insurance costs, so we ... help by finding temporary accommodation for people displaced by flooding — providing transitional accommodation to move people out of evacuation points, as well as low-cost housing for people while their own homes are being made safe.”