I know today I promised to write about Shanghai, but I’ve come back to Shanghai to find that my hometown of Brisbane, in Australia, is experiencing its worst ever natural disaster – a severe flood of enormous magnitude. Experts are saying the damage done is four times greater than that wreaked by hurricane Katrina in the USA. Australia, despite its beauty, is a harsh country, and in addition to recent severe droughts, Brisbane has been flooded badly twice before – the river that lies at the city’s heart overflowed its banks in 1893 and again in 1974. I was five years old then, and all I remember of it is the endless, endless rain, but my parents memories and warnings of that time have punctuated my life ever since.
‘Oh, you wouldn’t want to live there, it went under in ’74’ were the often repeated words from my mother whenever I looked at a house to rent, or later to buy. As a result, my house sits on a hill, far from the river’s side where I would love to live. Today, as the river reached its flooding peak, I’m extremely grateful for her advice.
For the last month, it has done little else in Brisbane but rain. Tropical downpours are common enough in the summer months of December, January and February, but this rain was more relentless and persistent until gradually the ground all over Queensland became completely saturated, and all the dams filled to overflowing. The thin blue river, winding through every part of the city, has become a bloated fast-flowing brown torrent. Large parts of the state of Queensland, of which Brisbane is the capital, have been under flood in the last two weeks, with an area involved larger than France and Germany combined. Now that massive body of water has moved, and in combination with fresh heavy rain new areas have flooded, some devastatingly so. The little town of Grantham, not far from Brisbane, was literally swept away when an inland tidal wave of water, a flash flood, picked up houses and cars and washed them downstream. Fifteen people are dead and another sixty are still missing, in a flood area that now surpasses that of Texas and California combined. The scope of the devastation is terrifying, and the rebuilding and clean-up will take months, if not years.
House and car in Grantham, washed away.
At a time like this it’s terrible to be away from home, and to know that your friends are going through such a frightening event. I wish I was there to lend a hand, lend a bed, lend a shoulder. You are all constantly in my thoughts, and I wish for all of you to be safe.
These are my local shops back home, normally about 1.5km from the river.
Photos from the Brisbane Times
Information available at The Courier Mail, where donations to the Queensland Flood Appeal can also be given.