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 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.
The floods are estimated to have already caused nearly $5 billion in damages, devastating much of Australia's coal, beef and agricultural industries.
Bathersby said many parishes and schools have opened their doors to assist those affected.