Rising waters forced an Australian bishop to flee his home after record rains caused extensive flooding on the Queensland coast.
“Water was coming up at the back and front of the house, so I took the advice of others and moved to higher ground,” Townsville Bishop Tim Harris said.
He told the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference Media Blog that he self-evacuated on Friday.
“Talking to neighbors, who were rescued by boat on Saturday, they have described the area as ‘Armageddon’ — it will take a long time to clean up,” the bishop said.
“I have seen from aerial footage being shown on television and social media, I feel that I will return to a house that has had water rushing through it,” the bishop said on Monday.
On Tuesday, Harris returned home, and filmed a video of the extensive damage, which he shared on the diocesan Facebook page.
A message from Bishop Timothy J Harris as he like many other in the community start the long process of cleaning up after the flooding event in Townsville. All those affected are in our prayers.
Posted by Catholic Diocese of Townsville on Tuesday, February 5, 2019
On Sunday, authorities opened the floodgates on the Townsville Ross River dam, which caused even more flooding downstream.
An estimated 500 homes and businesses in the city of 230,000 people were flooded.
On Tuesday, the bodies of two men in their 20s were found in a park, the only deaths so far attributed to the disaster.
Officials have stated the week of heavy rainfall has caused a “once in a century flood.”
“I was a young boy during the 1974 floods in Brisbane and quite isolated from the tragedy of it all,” said Harris.
“It is probably now, as I look at all the footage, I come to realize that I am probably in a state of shock as many families are as they come to terms that they have lost everything and their only possessions are the clothes they have on their backs,” the bishop added.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited the area Monday.
“There’s almost 6,000 Defense Force personnel up there and their own homes were being inundated where they live with their families. They were out helping others, pulling them off roofs, getting them into tinnies [small boats], getting them evacuated, it’s amazing, mate,” Morrison told local radio.
Harris also commended the rescue services, calling them “amazing.”
“The people of this area are there for others and in times like this, the real heart of people comes to the front and people are there to help one another,” the bishop told the ACBC Media Blog.
The Queensland Bureau of Meteorology’s Richard Wardle told journalists Tuesday he expects the storm “to remain active for coming days,” but added that it might begin to ease off over the weekend.
“With that, there is the real elevated risk of flash flooding,” he said.
“Because of this dynamic monsoon, we see the flood risk continuing for the remainder of the week and into next week, particularly for those larger river systems,” Wardle said.
Harris said that everyone needs to remember that although they may have lost their personal possessions, they still have their lives.
“When the time is right, and we are able to get back into our homes, we can put things back in place,” Harris said.
“This is not a time to throw in the towel or give up. It is a time to rally together and, as a people of faith, we have that sense that loss is only temporary and out of death comes life. We can’t be conquered, and we are saved by faith in the resurrection,” the bishop said.