Thursday, January 13, 2011

Queensland floods

A huge chunk of Queensland is under water. I've been through floods before but I've never seen anything on this scale before. It's so huge, it's difficult to keep remembering that New South Wales and Victoria are also experiencing floods from the same weather systems that have devastated Queensland.

Yesterday significant areas of Brisbane went under water. The CBD and other business areas have been shut down completely. Power was switched off in the CBD at 7am yesterday and now it's deserted. The waters peaked at about 1 metre lower than predicted and that saved a lot of properties but there are still a huge number of people and communities that have lost everything.

My sister lives in Chinchilla, four hours west of Brisbane, and they're in the middle of the second major flood since Christmas. Most of the time since then, the town has been completely cut off. I have friends in Dalby, three hours west of Brisbane, who have fared well as far as the water is concerned, even though significant parts of the town are under water for the second or third time since Christmas. Dalby is cut off. Supplies of food are approaching a concerning level and the availability of fuel is such that only emergency service vehicles have access. Similar stories have come from friends in Goombungee (15 mins west of Toowoomba which is 1.5 hours west of Brisbane) and Gatton (one hour west of Brisbane). They're safe but cut off.

I've been worried about a friend who lives in Murphys Creek (at the bottom of the range east of Toowoomba) with her family, as I haven't been able to contact them yet. There are twelve missing from that area after flash flooding swept down the mountain from Toowoomba. The twelve are apparently from just two families. From what I can gather from the news and what nearby Grantham is like, the entire community is decimated. My friend isn't registered on the Red Cross database at this point.

Before today, I've watched the news about the progress of the flooding in Queensland and felt interested and concerned for the people there. Up until a few days ago it was only property being damaged and livelihoods lost. On Tuesday lives were lost and more people have died since then. Until then, I never had any doubt we, as a community, a state and a country, would manage. Queenslanders, particularly primary producers, have had to deal with a lot of extremes affecting their livelihoods in the last decade. We've just recently come out of ten years of drought and now this. Whole industries have come to a standstill and will take years to rebuild. The Queensland economy has taken a devastating blow which will affect the whole of Australia and overseas industries as well. But it's possible to come through all that and rebuild as long as we're alive to do it.

With the deaths has come a sense of hopelessness. Nothing can fix that.