January 24, 2011

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.