Cyclone Gabrielle: Pope Francis close to people in New Zealand

In the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle, Pope Francis has expressed his closeness to the people of New Zealand.

Renewing his appeal for Turkey and Syria earthquake victims, Francis also turned his attention to New Zealand.

“I am close to the people of New Zealand, who have been hit in recent days by a devastating cyclone.

“Brothers and sisters, let us not forget those who suffer and let our charity be attentive, let it be a concrete charity!”

He made the comments during his Angelus message at the Vatican on Sunday.

Francis’ proximity to the people of New Zealand was followed up in a news story in Vatican News.

Grateful to hear of Pope Francis’ closeness, the Catholic parish of Napier Parish Priest, Fr Barry Scannell SM acknowledges the devastation and serious impact on the lives of many.

Scannell told CathNews that understandably while numbers at Sunday Mass were down this week, those who were able to attend were very mindful of the loss of life, those missing and the suffering of many.

“Cyclone Gabrielle will put a huge strain on the community and take a long time to recover,” he told CathNews.

He said he was grateful for his trusty old transistor radio, but it was not until he could see the pictures and get back into the community to visit people, that Cyclone Gabrielle’s devastation became very real.

Scannell said that washed-out bridges and roads in and out of Napier, and initially no electricity, mobile phone or internet communication, isolated people from family and elsewhere in the country and around the world.

He said the isolation proved challenging both for those in Napier and loved ones elsewhere and while most now have phone connectivity, not everyone has such a basic need as electricity.

Scannell says generally everyone is pitching in, everyone is helping each other.

Further up the east coast, Wairoa Parish Priest Rob Devlin SM says senior priest Pa Karaitiana Kingi SM needed help to evacuate his home.

The parish priest says he is being well cared for, but Kingi’s home is now ‘red stickered’, and his car is full of silt.

Devlin told CathNews that the devastation seriously impacted the low-lying areas of the town; around twenty per cent of the town, including the Tawhiti-a-Mau Marae, which is about a metre deep in water and mud.

St Therese Church at the marae also has significant water damage.

CathNews was unable to speak to anyone from the parish of Hastings.

Cyclone Gabrielle

Head of MetService New Zealand Weather Communications Lisa Murray gave a summary of the storm in a statement on 19 February.

Between 12 and 14 February, parts of New Zealand recorded rainfall amounts of 300-400mm, wind gusts of 130-140km/h and waves as high as 11 metres along some coasts.

“Gabrielle is one of the worst storms to hit Aotearoa New Zealand in living history” said Murray.

The death toll from Cyclone Gabrielle has risen to 11 but police have indicated the toll accounts only for the bodies that have been identified.

More than 6000 people had been reported as non-contactable; however, this contained many double-ups said Eastern District police commander Jeanette Park.

On Monday, the New Zealand Government extended the national state of emergency by 7 days and established a cyclone recovery task force.

The task force’s head is Sir Brian Roche and Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson, is the new Cyclone Recovery Minister.


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