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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Flooding in Australia

My heart aches every time I hear an update about the devastating floods in Australia at the moment.

SES volunteers
As a member of the volunteer NSW State Emergency Service, I've seen the damage and devastation storms and floods can reek on homes and communities. Losing a home or worse, a loved one, in a tragedy such as a flood, flash flood or drowning affects me the most. Sure, the physical cost of a disaster is staggering but it's the human cost that lives on in memory for years to come.

This morning I read 75% of the state of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone. The Northern Territory, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have all been hit by flooding in the last few weeks or are in flood now. Entire towns, villages and communities have been isolated, inundated or are experiencing the worst floods in 50 (and in some cases 100) years.

The only states not flood declared are Tasmania (although they're on flood alert with heavy deluges expected today) and Western Australia (they're in drought and are suffering bushfires!).

The flooding in Queensland alone has affected over 20 cities and towns and 200,000 people, and 38 local council regions have been declared disaster zones.*

The cost to the national economy so far is estimated at $6 billion, with agriculture and mining at the top of that list, and this value will rise as the clean-up and long term affects on communities are counted.*

For anyone reading this from overseas, I've included a couple of maps to give you an idea of the scale of the flooding. There's one with the USA superimposed over Australia and another with Europe.

There's also a map of Australia (various colours) that show the rainfall we've had. Using that as an estimate, look at the light green, green, light blue, dark blue and purple areas on it and you can pretty much say that's all land affected by flooding. Now compare that land mass to your superimposed images of the USA or Europe. Staggering, isn't it?

The news can be a double edged sword - you see or read the good, bad and ugly of the disaster. The generosity of people helping out (not just those in paid jobs), the homes and livelihoods lost, the toll on whole communities (and this case the whole country), the deaths, and the lower-than-scum looters.

Rainfall Percentages chart from the Bureau of Meteorology

But the most heartening aspect, and something I hold onto each day when I switch on the TV to watch the news? The way Aussies pull together to support each other.

Volunteer and government services are working around the clock to provide rescue, evacuation, essential supply drops or emergency accommodation. People are opening their homes to evacuees or people stranded because they can't get home.

Volunteers assisting with storm damage
And we can't forget the Flood Relief Appeal. While people may not be able to help physically, many have contributed financially.

To date, nearly $33 million has been raised. And this doesn't count the aid (eg.emergency service manpower) we've been offered from overseas countries like New Zealand and the USA.

When times get tough the outpouring of support and help is overwhelming and certainly brings a tear to your eye.

To anyone who has helped in any way - donations, physical support, prayers, volunteering...thank you, thank you, thank you!

My Country
(by Dorothea McKellar)
(partial poem, verses selected)

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

Trained SES floodboat volunteers

* Figures, maps & some images from the internet article titled Queensland Floods, and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology site.
* SES photos from a variety of sources such as the NSW SES website (home site & individual units - Gundagai & Warringah) & The Australian newspaper.
* Poem by Dorothea McKellar taken from a website dedicated to the Australian poet.


  1. This is a great post, Kylie, very informative. But its still so hard to comprehend the sheer size of this disaster. Some of the tragic stories I'm hearing this morning make my heart ache and shed a few tears. But I know what I feel must be but a speck of what those directly in the firing line are feeling.
    You're right about one thing in particular - Aussies always pull together at times like this and I have no doubt we'll find the strenght to help the people affected through this.

  2. Hey Kylie,
    Its horrible watching on the news whats going on in Oz, I really feel for all the people affected by the disaster. My hubby has some extended family members in Toowomba and Rockhampton and I have an Uncle in Victoria but they are all safe luckily. I hope you and yours are doing okay:)

  3. Thanks for this informative post, Kylie. It's wrenching to see what's happening up in Queensland. The SES are a truly inspirational band of men and women - my hat off to you Kylie for being one of them.
    Hoping and praying that everyone stays safe.

  4. Kylie,

    I'm so sorry that so much of your country is being flooded. All of you will be in my prayers. Stay safe.

  5. I'm glad you're safe Cath, Jess and Sharon. I hope any of your rello's who are affected are able to get help or get to safety themselves.

    Thanks, Sandy, the power of prayer can't be underestimated.

    Please feel free to pass this link/blog post on to friends - the more awareness raised the better.

  6. Kylie, a great post. I'll send this as a link for the post I've been asked to do on the International Christian Fiction Writers blog. May help folk overseas understand the size of this disaster. Many thanks.
    Mary H

  7. Great blog post Kylie. And you are so right - it's heartening to see how Australian's pull together in a time of crisis.

  8. I've just checked on the Relief Appeal website and the total amount of funds donated is now $36 million!

  9. We are thinking of everyone affected in any way through this disaster. Times like this the support and brotherhood shown is amazing and strengthening. Through disaster people really unite. We saw this through our recent Pikes Point mine tragedy and the Christchurch earthquake. People want to help but feel so helpless. If knowing we care helps, there's plenty of that... We send our support, thoughts, concern and love to our big western neighbour!!!

  10. Clare, thank you for caring and your love - it seems both our countries have been put to the test in recent months!

  11. Certainly is a terrifying time for many. I got out of Brisbane on Tuesday night, but I still can't shake the eerie feeling of dread I carried with me the whole time I was there.

    A huge thank you to all the emergency personnel working so hard and so selflessly right now.

  12. Vanessa, I'm just so glad you're safe. Are you still away from home after being evacuated?

    I hope you can return home soon and that everything there is well.

  13. A fantastic post Kylie - so informative and helps people understand the situation. It's times like this when things fall into perspective. Be safe all.

  14. Kylie, behind as usual. Feel so blessed that we can keep up close and personal with what's going on in your part of the world. You provide a great service.

  15. Hey Eleni - it's hard to imagine the scale of something like these floods, or Hurricane Katrina, or the quakes in Christchurch unless there's some sort of comparison.

    Donnell, I'm all for keeping people aware and informed. Not sure how much has been shown on your news services over there, so sometimes blogs or internet articles are the only way to hear about things.

  16. I just hate reading about this devastation. I know Aussies are terrific from first hand knowledge, and that they're tough, based on Ozzie history. But it does seem that you've had more than your share of natural disasters in the last few years. (Thinking about the fires here...)

    Take care, and know a lot of prayers and good thoughts are are aimed in your direction.

  17. Thank you, Mary Jo - many of us can use all the prayers and good thoughts you can send. :-)

  18. Kylie, Thank you for a thoughtful post. It is so hard to put tragedy into perspective and you did it well. Thank you also for the poem. What a beautiful way to close the post. I'm not from Australia, but I had (or rather my mother had) friends there for many years. It has always been dear to me and the poem simply said it beautifully.

  19. Judith, Dorothea McKellar's poem does encapsulate Australia. I love the words and images they provoke and in times like now they are so, so moving.

    Thank you for coming by and reading my post.

  20. Hi, Kylie. I grew up in Brisbane but I live in NSW now. I was in Brissie for a funeral, which unfortunately couldn't go ahead because of the flood. My family and friends in Brissie are now safe, though. Now for the big clean-up!

  21. Glad to hear you and yours are safe. I guess all funerals ATM are postponed. I wonder how many sorts everyday events have had to be put off because of the flooding.

    The clean-up will be huge. No doubt about it.

  22. If you put all the affected flood areas together they would amount to ALL of Spain & France covered in water

  23. Wow much love and blessings to the innocent victims of weather warfare.

  24. It's a large area that's been devastated by the floods, Anon. and with Tropical Cyclone Yasi this has compounded the problem.

    @VicensMoscova, thank you for your well wishes. They are appreciated.

  25. Aye, floods deal awful elemental damage. I certainly hope it won't happen again any time soon. :\ Wish you well-being and luck in getting better, victims!

    call Australia

  26. These floods must cause lots of damage. Great post by the way I really feel for those people.