The latest estimates are that Queensland's floods will cost in excess of 6 billion dollars directly (with much more than that in future lost export earnings) as major floods so far have decimated 24 towns and cities in what has become the largest catastrophe in the states recorded history.
An area exceeding the combined land mass of Belgium and France covering one third of the state is now under floodwaters. Houses, businesses, prime cropping lands and vital infrastructure such as roads and bridges have all been destroyed
You can view a tiny slither of the devastation of one such tiny town prone to flooding from the above video clip. Each day the position has deteriorated with continual torrential rain. The very latest town affected is in Maryborough where businesses and homes in this southeastern district prepare for further extensive flooding with some areas are already inundated.
Further severe weather warnings are predicted to lead to flash flooding in the southeastern coast, the eastern Darling Downs and Granite Belt districts.
As a postscript the flash flooding was much worse than expected. Dowling Downs again experienced severe flooding just as the clean up was about to begin. An even bigger wall of water devastated the area as residents talked about over 20 feet of water rising in just few minutes to pick up cars, houses and containers in the toorent like match boxes sewpt down the main street. Already an additional 8 people have been killed and 70 feared drowned who remain missing. Click here to see the effects of the raging waters.
The capital city of Brisbane is now preparing for the worst flood in recorded history with 33 Brisbane suburbs now on high alert as flood waters rise in the west with a wall of water bigger than Sydney Harbour. Flooding is now also expected in parts of NSW which brings back memories of my childhood in Kyogle (located on the Queensland border) during the 1954 record flood when our family home purchased as flood free (it was erected on high stilts), was submerged under the waters of the Richmond River. On that fateful day of cyclonic rain we decided to evacuate to a neighbor on higher ground but my father remained behind in a desperate bid to secure furniture and effects above the encroaching floodwaters.
My mother and I (she was clutching a hurriedly packed suitcase) dashed down the front steps in the pouring rain, up on to the road and across a steep grassy slope to the steps leading up to our neighbors house. After changing I remember joining in with our neighbors’ son fond of playing a pretend priest, as he proceeded to administer his own communion service to cheer us up. Even so I recall feeling less than reassured standing on the front verandah peering through the darkness to see what was happening.
I recall we were able to glimpse my father through the moonlit window vainly swimming around inside the house attempting to place articles above the rising floodwaters. We all breathed an audible sigh of relief as he abandoned his quest and with his usual reassuring slow rhythmic swimming style swam through a half submerged window for the safety of dry land. Hauling himself onto the bank cold and exhausted he eventually joined us on the verandah as we watched our house submerge under the flood waters. Elsewhere homes were being swept away whist others perished as their rescue boat capsized. Throughout the night men in the flimsiest of small boats heroically rescued those stranded on rooftops or left clinging to trees.
I think the aftermath was a time of suffering as I will never forget the all pervasive pungent odor, a reminder of unexpected death and destruction. As our supplies dwindled I recall how pleased we were to hear the faithful drone of a DC 3 aircraft and watch white parachutes drift with supplies into our welcoming hands. Sheets of corrugated iron dislodged from houses were folded at both ends and sealed with tar, to make canoes to deliver the milk and supplies to stranded townsfolk. I recall search parties setting out with grim faces looking for bodies. Every organization rushed to help including the Girl Guides Association who was honored with an international award for outstanding service. All of the community shared in the tragedy and no one felt alone.
It was too painful for my parents to stay so they sold the family home for a fraction of its previous value so that these financial consequences and hardship lingered on for many years afterwards.
The memories of our beloved home in its delightful setting, transformed into a sea of brown surf, remain with me as clear today as they were so long ago.
Today many more again face the same uncertain future and the pictures of those in distress remind us of the fragility of life and the inevitable cycles of flooding rains and droughts which on this scale may only be experienced once in lifetime. It just so happens these weather patterns which have existed for thousands of years repeat to effect huge areas we have built on which become once in lifetime floodplains.