After enduring record breaking droughts that had government planners considering desalination units to provide drinking water, the northern Australian state of Queensland, that is bigger than both Germany and France, has now been inundated by historic rains and flooding for the past month.
As the tropical rains have moved from south, leaving a blanket of water across most of the state, the state capital of Brisbane (population: 2 million) is the latest city to be affected. In the past week the rain has been almost incessant in the south east corner of the state where Brisbane is located, and the Brisbane River and its tributaries have swollen to record flood heights, affecting thousands of homes and even the Brisbane City CBD. Historic Lang Park (Suncorp Stadium), where many rugby tests have been played, is now a swimming pool.
At least ten people have lost their lives; and dozens more are missing. At the time of writing this report, it is still not over; the peak of the flood is now moving into the Brisbane City area.
As a resident of Brisbane, this is the flood that we did not expect to happen. We all thought that when the Wivenhoe Dam was built in the early 1980s, in upper reaches of the river, to hold twice as much water as Sydney Harbor, that we would never against see a disastrous flood like this. We were wrong. The rains have been so heavy below the dam that the dam may have even worsened the situation when it became full and had to release water into the already-flooded river below.
Challenges of Life in Outback Australia
In all my years of living in various parts of Queensland; and having grown up with the challenges of floods and droughts that are part and parcel of life in outback Australia, I also never thought that my family would be so seriously affected by a flood, as we have been this time. I thought that the days of uncontrollable flooding, at least in the state capital, were behind us. I say this in the knowledge that as I write this report, our home at Goodna is submersed by flood waters.
I write this report at the request of our good friend, Dan Wooding, because so many of our friends from all over the world have contacted us; to tell us that they are praying for our wellbeing. Hopefully, also, it can serve as a warning to us all that we must remain eternally vigilant in this material world, for we never know when disaster will strike. And I say this, particularly to those of us who live in the fortunate western, free world. As we hear about the disasters in places like Haiti and Peru, we think it will never happen to us; until it does. God moves in mysterious ways, and times like these challenge the faith of the strongest of us.
I need to say also that I am writing this report from the safety and comfort of Irvine, California, while my wife Mary and my son Clayton deal with the challenges in Brisbane. Mary and I have been in Irvine for the past couple of months working on business challenges related to the Safe Worlds IPTV project. The world economic crisis has not made it easy for this important start-up, kingdom project; so much so that Mary and I had to be here over Christmas, separated from our loved ones, to keep the project afloat. Our friends and our shareholders know the situation.
Mary back in Brisbane
Mary only just returned to Brisbane last Sunday. She went back, not because we ever expected our house to be threatened by these floods, but because our son Clayton was to be married in Brisbane this Saturday. I couldn't go because of on-going commitments in California.
On Monday, when Mary was in the throes of recovering from jetlag, we first heard of the possibility of flooding. Even then we did not think that our house would be affected. At 6.00 pm on Tuesday, the local police rang and advised that residents in our area, about a mile from the Brisbane River, would have to evacuate. Clayton quickly hired a moving van, and by midnight, Mary and Clayton, and a couple of good friends, had packed and moved most of our belongings out of the house, to Clayton's home, five miles away, on higher ground. "I don't think that any professional movers could have done a better job, any faster," Mary told me when it was all over.
Mary called me by phone at 12.30 am, as they were driving the van down our street in 18 inches of water that was rising rapidly.
By the next morning, Wednesday, the house was under a sheet of water as the flood waters moved down the Brisbane River, through our area. The flood waters kept rising all day Wednesday; and by the end of day we also heard that our Records Storage in Brisbane City was being inundated and maybe we might lose a lot of our valuable historic records. Its only stuff, but it is disappointing to lose stuff that we have dragged around with us over the past 40 years; memories of our days in politics; pioneering free weekly newspapers; producing TV documentaries in North Queensland; and mining in outback Australia. We pray that some of it can still be salvaged.
Where to from here?
One good thing about working on a project like Safe Worlds IPTV is that we don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves. We are all fine and our faith has never been stronger. We have also designed the Safe Worlds IPTV network in such a way that it can be managed by a very small group of people, from virtually anywhere in the world. So Safe Worlds IPTV is not affected by all this.
Clayton and his bride-to-be, Tao, have had to cancel their wedding this week. The church and the reception hotel are both inaccessible. They are both well however, and there will be another day to get married.
Mary and her mum will have to stay with Clayton, at his house, at least for a few days, until we can assess the situation in Goodna once the flood waters have receded. They are already scurrying around trying to stock up the pantry in case the current food shortage lasts longer than expected. The local stores in Goodna have all been flooded and sewage has already entered the water system in Brisbane, with all the problems that can cause.
The weather forecast for the next week, at least is good. We need at least a week of scorching sun to dry things out. However, I am told that there is now a good chance that a cyclone in the Barrier Reef could also affect Brisbane in the coming weeks, to add insult to injury. And, it's only January. The traditional "wet season" could go well into April.
I will wait and see if I need to return to Australia to help.
Please pray for the victims of this disaster. Australia is a rich country; and Australians are resilient people; unlike places like Haiti, we have the resources to endure and re-build; and we will. Many ordinary folk however have been badly affected by this disaster; much worse than us; and they need your prayers and help, wherever you can.
The Brisbane floods: One family's perspective
One man tells of the damage suffered by his family in devastating floods but says others need prayers more than them.
Published 14 January 2011 | Alan Metcalfe, ASSIST News Service