News Release

Members & Missionaries Rally to Help Queensland

In light of the devastation caused by the recent flooding in Queensland, the Pacific Area Presidency has issued a statement. Click here to read the full message.

TOOWOOMBA, QUEENSLAND – 14th January, 2011 3.00pm - For Peter and Sheila Sticklen and their children, Ben (23) and Rachael (17), living through the nightmare of a flooded house is something they don't want to have to do again anytime soon.

Their babbling brook at the back of their house, at most three to four metres wide if drought hasn't dried it up, turned into a raging torrent on Monday between 750 metres and a kilometre wide and eight to nine metres deep.

The Sticklens live at Postman's Ridge at the bottom of the Toowoomba range about 10 kilometres from the city centre and a 15 minute drive to the Toowoomba chapel. The surge of water that they experienced was the same surge that had gone through the city just minutes before, leaving a path of death and destruction in its wake. Peter describes how he stood mesmerized at the window of his house looking at the 1.5 metre wall of water that was swirling around his house (pictured).

But the Sticklens were relatively lucky. Somehow they ended up with just three inches of water through their house and two inches of mud, unlike a close neighbour whose house was completely washed away and found in pieces some 38 kilometres from its original foundations.

Yes, they lost a six metre long shipping container from their yard – with reports that it might be five kilometres away - and their 5m X 9m shed was ripped from its foundations and has disappeared. But, according to Peter Sticklen, "the important things in life are family. The house and stuff are just things which we are not worried about. We have insurance and the things we lost can easily be replaced."

Peter and Sheila said they feel great sadness for those who have lost much more than them. "The house two doors down had two people washed away – a mother and her adult son," said Peter. "They are still missing. Mud in your house is nothing. Family and the gospel are everything."

And, Peter and Sheila said you know who your friends are at these times. "Some Relief Society sisters just showed up and asked where the dirty clothes were and just loaded them up and took them away to wash them", said Peter. "Fifty to sixty members arrived today and went to work, searching the surrounding area for tools (that had disappeared) from my shed and doing whatever needed to be done. The priesthood just went to work. It took an enormous load off."

Peter Sticklen is assistant stake clerk in the Ipswich Australia Stake and Sheila is Toowoomba Institute teacher.

Like the people who helped the Sticklens, Elder Ryan Michaely and Elder Jonathon Lester were among the many Church members throughout Queensland who dropped their regular activities to assist people in need in their local community. The missionary elders, who are located in Emerald, have stopped their regular proselytizing activities and simply gone from door-to-door to find those who needed "muck and dirt swept out of their homes and whatever else has been required." (See the picture on the homepage of this website.)
The Fairbairn dam, 18 kilometres from Emerald, peaked at 175% of capacity. Eighty per cent of Emerald Township, one of the hardest hit in Queensland, eventually went under the water, meaning that the work of Elder Michaely and Elder Lester has been very much appreciated by the local citizens.

Elder Michaely said they have moved "heaps of heavy furniture, taken doors of homes so furniture could be moved in and out, and moved equipment and furniture uphill to dry land." One of the most intriguing, yet worrying sights, he said, was seeing the local Woolworths store buried under metres of water, reflecting what must be a dire food situation for many local residents.

Elder Michaely is from Herndon, Virginia while Elder Lester is from Temecula, California. Both missionaries have been in Australia for just over a year. They said that the branch in Emerald, 270 kilometres to the west of Rockhampton, has around 30 regular attendees.

BRISBANE, Queensland - 13th January, 2011 4:00pm – It's a flood that has been described as the worst in living memory. Yet, the Brisbane flood peak, which arrived early this morning, has not been as high as that experienced during the 1974 Brisbane flood. It's all to do with the size of modern-day Brisbane, according to Elder Dirk Smibert of the Seventy.

"The height of the flood may not be as great," said Elder Smibert in a phone conference today to assess the Church response to the disaster. "But so much more infrastructure has been built in the last 36 years and the resultant damage is far, far greater."

The impact of the flood on Church members in Brisbane has not been as catastrophic as on those who experienced the deluge in the Ipswich stake towns of Toowoomba and Ipswich.

Seventeen Latter-day Saint families in the Brisbane Ward in the Brisbane Australia Stake have been evacuated from their homes. Seven of these have been accommodated in other Church member homes and the remaining ten have gone to government evacuation centres. Twelve of the evacuees' homes have suffered damage.

In Centenary Stake, some Latter-day Saint homes have suffered water damage but reports at this stage say none of the families has needed to be evacuated.

In addition to the sixteen homes destroyed or flooded in Toowoomba and Ipswich, as reported in yesterday's story, overnight a further eight Church member homes have been inundated by rising flood waters in the Ipswich area.

In the Brisbane Mission town of Hervey Bay and the Sunshine Coast Australia Stake town of Gympie, most Church members have been able to avoid damage to their homes. However, it is believed that one Latter-day Saint family lost its home in Bundaberg, six Church member homes were severely affected by flood waters in Emerald, and the homes of a further four families were affected by the floodwaters in Rockhampton.

The Especially for Youth (EFY) event planned for Brisbane next week has now been cancelled. The University of Queensland campus has been severely affected by the deluge making it impossible to continue with the program. Many youth had already arrived in town to attend the five-day conference and it is hoped that some may be available to participate in community clean-up activities.

Elder Smibert, the Brisbane stake presidents and President Langeland of the Brisbane mission are in constant communication with one another and are working together to determine a broader Church response to the disaster.

"This is a problem that will not be resolved just when the flood-waters recede," said Elder Smibert in today's conference call. "It will be a long-term process that will take months to resolve. Some Church members may be without their homes or possessions for a long time to come and we need to assist them."

Elder Smibert said priesthood leaders were also assessing the opportunities for Church members to assist in the community. "While we know our members are already assisting their neighbours and friends who need help – just as any person would want to do – in coming days there will be real opportunities for us as a Church to help in the overall state recovery effort."

BRISBANE, Queensland -12th January, 2011 2:00pm – The state of Queensland is experiencing its worst floods in at least 50 years, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people and affecting about 1 million square kilometres, or an area the size of France and Germany combined. While an estimated 200,000 people in the state have been directly affected, David Murphy, Australia Service Centre Manager, says, "So far we know of only 53 members of the Church who have been impacted by the unfolding disaster."

The Queensland town of Toowoomba may be 700 metres above sea level but this was not enough to stop hundreds of residents losing homes, cars and, in some unfortunate cases, their lives following devastating flood surges through the city on Monday, 10th January.

A number of Latter-day Saint families have been affected with one in President Garth Pitman's Ipswich stake losing its home to the flood waters. This home was "relocated" well away from its normal position and the family lost all possessions. The homes of another fifteen families suffered "severe water inundation" with a number losing everything they owned. The Ipswich stake encompasses both the cities of Ipswich and Toowoomba.

Following Monday's devastation in Toowoomba, Ipswich is the next focus of attention with one third of residents, including Church members, being evacuated from their homes to safety in higher areas. The city of Brisbane is battening down in preparation for expected flood peaks on Friday and Saturday.

Church leaders are constantly monitoring the situation as flood waters continue to rise. Here is a summary of other information to date provided by Elder Dirk Smibert, of the Seventy, full-time mission president, Fritjof F. Langeland, and Brisbane stake presidents. This report, which will be updated as further information comes to hand, was prepared on Wednesday, 12th January at 2:00pm EST:

MISSIONARIES – President Langeland reports that all missionaries in Queensland are safe and well but ten companionships have been moved out of low lying areas as a precaution. Many are providing comprehensive community assistance in the areas in which they serve. Some of their flats may be affected.

CHURCH BUILDINGS – No Church buildings have been affected at this point. Two are at minimal risk from rising flood waters including the Ipswich stake centre at Brassall and the chapel at Grafton in northern New South Wales. The Brassall building has been sand-bagged at the entrances as a precaution.

ASSISTANCE IN THE COMMUNITY – a number of stake presidents have contacted representatives of local government bodies to determine how Church members may collectively or individually assist. At this point, authorities have asked members to confine their support to their immediate neighbours and friends, many of whom may be in danger from rising waters. Once the full extent of the disaster is known, Church leaders may coordinate a group response with the creation of Helping Hands and other projects. Some local government telephone numbers are available for Church members and others to phone to volunteer to provide assistance individually.

Church leaders in Salt Lake City and the Pacific Area Presidency are presently considering other ways in which the Church and its members may assist including monetary donations.

CENTENARY STAKE – concerns have been expressed about families located in the geographic area of Centenary stake with waters potentially affecting members' homes. Centenary stake is located to the south-west of the Brisbane CBD and is presided over by President Jim O'Reilly. One sister who lives on an island within the stake boundary has already been evacuated.

EMERALD – six Church member homes were severely affected by flood waters.

ROCKHAMPTON – four families were affected by the floodwaters.

GYMPIE and HERVEY BAY - no information is available at this point.

EFY (Especially for Youth) – this event is due to be held at the University of Queensland campus in St Lucia adjacent to the Brisbane River over five days beginning Monday, 17th January. Fourteen hundred youth are booked to attend, with Young Single Adult advisers arriving on Saturday, the day that flood waters are due to peak in Brisbane. A decision on whether the event will be able to proceed will be made by priesthood leaders shortly subject to advice by civic authorities.

NEW SOUTH WALES – no Latter-day Saints in cities and towns in northern New South Wales areas have been affected by flood waters. Flood waters are due to peak in Grafton shortly. The situation in Narrabri and Moree, which may be subject to the impact of flood waters in coming days, is being closely monitored.


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