By Paul Dobbyn
SALESIAN Missions director Brother Michael Lynch has called on Australian Catholics “not to wash their hands of caring for our neighbours the Solomon Islands doing it tough” in the wake of two severe cyclones in the past month.
Heavy rain has led to severe flash flooding in the capital and heavy flooding in rural areas of Guadalcanal and in Malaita islands, with up to 50,000 people displaced from their homes.
The Solomon Islands government declared a state of emergency after the Matanikau River in Honiara burst its banks, sweeping away, people, houses and bringing down bridges.
Br Lynch said reports were also coming in of the loss of drinking water supplies and even the threat of crocodiles and sharks attracted by pigs and other livestock washed into rivers and out to sea.
Caritas Australia has also called for support as it attends to urgent water, health and sanitation needs to prevent the onset of diseases, following severe flash flooding in the capital Honiara and other areas.
One of the island’s bishops, Salesian Luciano Capelli and the order’s brothers and sisters, spoke of flood waters thought to have claimed at least 21 victims, among them 11 children.
Bishop Capelli in his report also described the loss of an ambulance donated by the Italian Ambassador in Canberra.
It was swept away while trying to save several families.
“The parish of Tetere is totally submerged in water,” he said.
“In Honiara things are even worse.
“The bridge that connects to Chinatown and was swept away along with several houses along the river, with two confirmed deaths.
“The cathedral and the hill of Holy Cross in Honiara are full of refugees.”
Br Lynch said, with Brisbane considered Australia’s gateway to the Solomons, the archdiocese should have a special interest in the wellbeing of a neighbour “only three hours away by air”.
“The islands’ people are not looking for big handouts but some sort of support,” he said.
“They’re all doing it tough and so in a sense we can’t wash our hands of them.”
Donations can be sent to Salesian Missions Solomon Islands Relief, PO Box 264, Ascot Vale, Vic 3032 or online at www.salesians.org.au/missions. Donations are tax deductible.
To support Caritas Australia’s emergency response work, donate to the Emergency Response Fund at www.caritas.org.au/donate.