I’ve been watching from a distance the devastating aftermath of the floods in Queensland, arguably one of the worst natural disasters in Australia’s recorded history. It will be interesting to see what the findings of any subsequent government inquiry are and issues around insurance that will likely arise. Although water levels have now largely receded and a major clean-up operation is under way, there may be more flooding to come: Haydon Walker, a long-range weather forecaster who predicted the floods that have already occurred, is predicting further heavy rain to come in February and March, principally in the South-eastern part of the state, near the border with New South Wales. Victorian towns have also been affected by flooding.
The ABC has assembled this neat presentation to demonstrate visually Brisbane before and after the flooding:
With at least 70 towns affected state-wide, thousands of people evacuated from their homes, and 75% of the state declared a disaster zone, The State Government has estimated the total damage bill to stand at $151 million.
But property and infrastructure can be replaced and rebuilt, and communities have a way of pulling together in these kinds of circumstances – the massive volunteering effort, the funds being raised privately and business initiatives to help with the clean-up and reconstruction of the state are all evidence of this. It is the human cost of these kinds of disasters, natural or otherwise, that I find most affecting.
Yesterday QLD Premier Anna Bligh confirmed that the death toll now stands at 20 and 12 people are still missing. QLD police released the photos and names of the missing yesterday:
I was greatly saddened by the story of one young child who was swept away from his pregnant mother’s arms during the attempted rescue of his family. The mother was rescued, but now has to live with the death of her child, right in front of her.
Then there’s the story of 13-year-old Jordan Rice who, as he, his brother and step-mum were being rescued from the hood of a car about to be engulfed by a raging torrent, urged rescuers to take his brother Blake first – despite the fact that he himself could not swim (Blake too urged rescuers to take his mother first). Rescuers did save Blake, however, when they returned to rescue Jordan and his step-mum, both had already been swept away to their deaths.
Jordan’s father John spent his 46th birthday identifying the bodies of his wife and his son in a mortuary.
Fuck. What do you do, in such an awful situation?
The only thing you can do, I suppose: keep going.
As John said, “It is so hard but I have my other boys and I have to stay strong for them.”
Mia Freedman at Mamamia has blogged about the various ways people can help with the relief effort here (scroll past Julia Gillard’s tweet capture to get to the goodness):