THE diocesan registry in Rockhampton, central Queensland, became a victim of the floods that have all but isolated the cathedral city from the rest of Australia.
Rockhampton diocese, which covers some 57 million hectares, is twice the size of New Zealand. It has 22 parishes and ministry centres.
The River Fitzroy is yet to peak, and the airport is closed. Only the road north to Mackay remains open for the transport of essential supplies to the city of 75,000. The Australian Defence Force is flying goods into Mackay. The south-bound Bruce Highway is likely to be cut off for at least another ten days.
The Bishop of Rockhampton, the Rt Revd Godfrey Fryar, said that, as water lapped into the registry building, staff frantically moved items to the second storey. “One of our particular concerns was the archives, which contain much of the history of the diocese,” Bishop Fryar said. The Bishop’s office, the board room, and the chapel are now under water.
The Cathedral, situated in a higher part of the city, is safe from the floodwaters; but three other churches in the diocese have not been so fortunate. St George’s, in Theodore, a town that has been almost completely evacuated, has been flooded, together with St Mark’s, Alpha, and All Souls’, Wowan.
As increasing numbers of Rockhampton streets and houses are flooded, “our concerns at the registry seem small compared with the situation of hundreds of people having to leave their homes,” Bishop Fryar said.
Many of those suffering the worst of the disaster are poor, and live in houses on the flood plain because it is cheaper. But, although the inevitability of the flood was depressing, people seemed to be maintaining a sense of humour, he said.