Torrential rainfall (a ‘once in 50 years event’) is battering the east coast of Australia and New South Wales has been declared a natural disaster. We are thankful no lives have been lost, while at the same time there has been tremendous loss of livelihoods, and property.
Amidst the beauty of God’s creation, we encounter forces beyond our control that bring loss and destruction. Fire, flood and drought are deeply etched into the Australian psyche. We ache with sorrow at the destruction of homes and livelihoods. We offer our prayers for those affected by the floods and for all those working to bring relief and fresh hope. Here is a prayer by Maren Tirabassi in response to the NSW floods.
God who walks across the water,
reach out your hand
to the people of New South Wales,
where the rains continue,
roads are flooded,
dams broken, rivers swollen,
families evacuated from their homes,
where the Australian government
names sixteen national disaster sites,
and rescue workers are at risk.
Reach out your hand, O God,
that makes in those who fear to sink
new Peters –
finding themselves lifted
to help a neighbour,
to share food, seek shelter,
care for COVID protocols.
And bless, O Holy One,
the ministry of disaster recovery chaplains*
in the days of rain to come. Amen.
(Maren Tirabassi on her blogsite, Gifts in Open Hands, 21 March 2021)
* Disaster recovery chaplaincy is an ecumenical network of chaplains established to assist people who have been affected by disasters and major emergencies within their communities.
(World Water Day on March 22 is an annual UN observance day that highlights the importance of freshwater. The day is used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. Still a high priority despite the floods in NSW).
Professor Will Steffen from the Climate Council writes:
It’s been devastating watching the worsening flooding disaster unfold. New South Wales and Queensland have been hit particularly hard so far, whilst 10 million Australians are currently subject to an extreme weather warning covering every state and territory except Western Australia. Many people have been asking over the past few days how flooding events are being influenced by climate change, so here are the facts.
Globally, the risk of extreme rainfall and flooding events like those currently devastating Australian communities is increasing with climate change. The global average temperature has already risen by around 1.1°C, and for every 1°C rise in temperature, the atmosphere is able to hold around 7% more water.
This extra heat and moisture means more energy for weather systems that generate intense rainfall, and in Australia, we’re already seeing an increase in the intensity of heavy rainfall events.
Our weather over summer and autumn has also been influenced by a La Niña event, which tends to bring more rain for much of Australia. But it’s important to remember: everything we are experiencing today is occurring in the context of a rapidly warming planet.