RAINS have stopped and thousands of Townsville residents begin the task of picking through their homes to count the cost of an historic flood disaster.
Pope Francis offered his condolences after the floods in a letter penned by Holy See secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin to Townsville Bishop Tim Harris.
“Having learned of the loss of life and destruction of property caused by the heavy flooding in Townsville, the Holy Father assures you of his heartfelt solidarity and prayers for all those affected by this disaster,” Cardinal Parolin said.
“His Holiness prays especially for the repose of the deceased, the healing of those injured, and for the important work of reconstruction.
“Upon all Pope Francis willingly invokes abundant blessings of consolation and hope.”
Hope was the word on the lips of many, hope provided by charity workers who rolled up their sleeves – and even by corporate entities.
Mining company South32 donated $1 million to the St Vincent de Paul Society’s North Queensland Flood Appeal.
Vinnies’ Queensland vice-president Matthew Nunan thanked the company for the donation.
“So many lives will be changed with this significant and generous donation,” Mr Nunan said.
“Vinnies (in Queensland) was formed in 1894 after the Great Brisbane Flood to help with the devastation facing the community – and we’re still here supporting Queenslanders facing disasters – flood, fire or drought.
“The difference this donation will make to Vinnies in their work to help people’s short and long-term recovery is immeasurable.”
Mr Nunan said the disaster was not over and the donation would help achieve clean-up goals too.
Another appeal, the Townsville Flood Relief Appeal, run by Brisbane archdiocese’s Catholic Foundation has also been able to provide on-the-ground support to those affected by the floods.
The Insurance Council of Australia said insurers had received 13,560 claims, with losses estimated at $165 million as of Sunday, February 1.
But graziers and farmers faced the largest losses.
Bishop Harris said on Twitter, “Like the people in Townsville, I pray for property owners of the west who are experiencing hardship from this rain.”
An estimated 300,000 cattle were killed in the floods, and many of those still alive are at risk of starvation.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said everyone had seen the images, the devastating scenes out of north Queensland.
“This will be heartbreaking to these communities, that have been experiencing years of drought only to see that turn into a torrential inundation which threatens now their very livelihoods in the complete other direction,” he said.
Townsville Catholic Education announced the reopening of 10 of the 11 Townsville-based Catholic schools on February 6.
Only St Margaret Mary’s College, which was extensively damaged during the flood, had a delayed opening on February 11.
Gifts for the Townsville Flood Relief Appeal can be made online on the catholicfoundation.org.au/how-we-help/flood-relief-appeal or by calling the Catholic Foundation office on (07) 3324 3200.