ON Wednesday, April 19 I travelled to Mackay and saw for myself the extensive damage to the land and to the people from the effects of Cyclone Debbie.
I visited communities with Fr Don White, the parish priest of South Mackay and including Sarina, Koumala and Carmila.
Our first stop was to survey the damage caused by the excess water in Plane Creek that runs through Sarina and how it had damaged several homes on its bank.
Presentation Sister Margaret Argent had been in contact with an affected family and offered assistance and the support of the parish community.
There have been many families assisted by the generosity of the Sarina community and Fr Don and Sr Margaret.
Fr Don could tell me of the families who were affected by the torrential down-pouring of water and in some places over a metre of water fell in the space of a few hours.
A quick visit to our school of St Anne to catch up with the staff and students and then it was off to visit families on the Sarina Range, the highway that links Sarina with Marlborough.
The first 20km of this road were washed out by the cyclone and may take 12 to 18 months to repair.
This necessitated travelling via the Koumala Range road, which is now taking all the traffic and including the link to Nebo and Morahbah.
Fr Don and Sr Margaret stopped to say hello to one family who had experienced over 400mm through their house and spent the night of the rain huddled in their SUV parked in the garage where the water came up to the door sills.
It’s hard to visualise the extent of the flooding as the house seemed to be on a rise but with the back-up of water from Funnel and Stoney creeks which eventually flows into the Connors and the Fitzroy rivers and with over a metre of water gushing from the heavens, it would have been an horrific night.
The family is in great spirits and is assisting other families who suffered similar experiences.
In Rockhampton, we were caught by the rising water that had begun its journey in the catchment area of the Fitzroy and took over a week to reach us here.
Later that afternoon, I caught up with Fr Stephen Hanly, the parish priest of the North Side Parishes of Mackay and he relayed similar experiences of the damage to property and families around Homebush, Walkerston, Eton, Greenmount and Nebo.
It will take some time for our people to recover from Debbie and the rain that followed.
Bishop Michael McCarthy is the bishop of Rockhampton diocese.