Posted by: jkirkby8712 | January 11, 2011

Tuesday, 11th January2011 – Queensland floods intensify in tragedy.

I didn’t  take much note of the late news last night, or even this morning, whilst driving into the city [was simply in the mood for listening to some music, after a slow start], so it was with some shock upon switching the radio on at the office, to discover the magnitude of the disastrous flood situation up in Queensland. Late yesterday and overnight, tragedy had hit that part of Australia with a tsunami type fury, and left death and destruction in it’s path. While the actual recorded situation at around 11 am this morning, was confirming 8 deaths, and up to 72 people missing in flood waters, the situation was anticipated to worsen further.  The following news reports describe the overnight reports and outcome, and I must confess to been left feeling a little depressed at the news that kept coming through – sitting here at the office desk seemed such an insignificant unnecessary use of time when considering the massive needs up north.

Floods in Queensland  A major search and rescue effort is underway with dozens of people waiting for help after flash flooding hit communities west of Brisbane, killing at least eight. Parts of the city of Toowoomba were devastated by tsunami-like flash flooding, which has also left a trail of destruction in the Lockyer Valley at the foot of the Toowoomba range. Atrocious weather forced authorities to suspend efforts to reach dozens of people stranded on rooftops and at other locations in the valley on Monday night.  The focus of concern is the valley communities of Grantham, where about 40 people were trapped on Monday night, and Withcott, where people spent the night on rooftops.  Nine Network reporter Cameron Price is at Grantham and told the ABC the town had been devastated.  “The town is like a cyclone has gone through it,” he said.  “There are houses that are completely collapsed, cars that are halfway up trees, homes a kilometre away from where they were. “The terrible news from here is that they took the bodies of two small children from the waters, they are the fifth and sixth victims here so far.” The Premier Anna Bligh said  on Tuesday morning that eight people had died in the Toowoomba area and another 11 were missing. She said wet weather was hampering the rescue efforts and the search for the 11 missing people. Earlier, police said the dead included a woman and a boy, whose bodies were found in the Toowoomba CBD. A man and a boy were also dead after being washed away in, or from a house, at the valley community of Murphys Creek. 

Heavy rain across the whole of southeast Queensland on Tuesday will worsen the flood disaster and hamper search and rescue efforts for dozens of people missing or stranded. The weather bureau says heavy rain will continue across the whole of southeast Queensland on Tuesday, and this could lead to more flash flooding. The rain will last for most of the day, a Bureau of Meteorology forecaster told AAP. “We expect the system to weaken late today or tomorrow,” he said. A severe weather warning was issued early on Tuesday, saying heavy falls may lead to localised flash flooding and/or worsen existing river flooding.  Heavy rain and thunderstorms are expected to continue through the Southeast Coast, Darling Downs and Granite Belt, the far southern parts of the Wide Bay and Burnett and eastern parts of the Maranoa and Warrego districts. Road closures will also hamper rescue and recovery efforts. The Warrego Highway, the main east-west road across the Darling Downs is closed in several places. On the Toowoomba Range, north of Toowoomba, police say it will be closed indefinitely. At the Gatton bypass, the highway will be closed until at least 2pm (AEST) on Tuesday. Motorists have been urged not to travel to Queensland’s southeast corner unless absolutely necessary. Queensland’s Main Roads Minister Craig Wallace has pleaded with motorists to avoid all non-essential travel around Toowoomba, Lockyer and Ipswich. Lockyer Valley Mayor Steve Jones said everything possible was being done to help people caught up in the disaster, which has sparked mass evacuations across the valley. “We’ve got an evacuation centre at the Gatton shire hall, it’s almost full at the moment,” he told the ABC. “We’ve got people at the community hall at Heildon and we’ve also got them at the state school at Withcott.  “And we’ve got people at Grantham actually still here on higher ground near the school.”  the star as the Socceroos kicked off their Asian Cup campaign with 4-0 win over India.

Authorities hold grave fears the death toll could rise much higher with an unknown number of people missing and some unconfirmed reports already counting seven dead – including three more fatalities at Grantham Premier Anna Bligh told reporters on Monday night there were a large number of people clinging to rooftops in the Lockyer Valley, east of Toowoomba, but heavy fog had grounded the state’s helicopters. “We do believe we have a large number of people stranded on those rooftops,” Ms Bligh said. “We do have very grave concerns. There are many Queenslanders tonight in critical and dire circumstances.” Ms Bligh said 43 successful rooftop rescues had been made in the Withcott area.  Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson told reporters in Brisbane authorities would do all they could to rescue people overnight but he said he was not hopeful many rescues could be completed safely in the dark.  “It’s just impossible to complete this tonight,” he said.  A major aerial search will be launched at first light and extra helicopters have been brought in from NSW. Six people are confirmed missing in the Lockyer Valley – three young pedestrians and another three people who were washed away in two cars.  Another 30 people have sought refuge at a primary school in Grantham, also in the valley, but authorities say contact with them is virtually non-existent.  The flood will move through the valley on Tuesday morning and will head further east into the Brisbane River and into Ipswich and Brisbane within 36 hours. The Bureau of Meteorology modelling on how that will affect Brisbane was due to be completed before sunrise. The flood peaks are dropping as quickly as they came, but they’re leaving a trail of destruction.

During the morning, I sent messages to my three siblings – two who live in the Brisbane area, and a brother, who with his wife just 4 weeks ago, moved up to Rockhampton, one of the Queensland towns which has been hard hit by the floods. Colin rang me later in the morning –  they are living about 10 kms out of Rockhampton itself, but are completely cut off from the town, so are unable to get in for supplies – food, fuel [beer of course!!] – there are some local stores in their area, but they are fast running out of supplies, etc. Meanwhile, Colin, as a train driver is unable to work, as far as driving is concerned – many lines underwater, trains and stock damaged by floodwaters, and that situation is unlikely to be remedied, perhaps for some weeks. I’m assuming that Angela, who is a nurse, is also possibly restricted from getting to her employment, although I’ve not confirmed as yet as to whether she had actually commenced a new job since moving north.

I must say that it was nice to receive an email of concern from a friend [former penfriend of the kind I was referring to yesterday – people I’m still in touch with after many years]  – Dee, who has often in the past relayed to me details of the annual  storms and hurricanes that hit Florida, was confused about her ‘geography’, so was wondering whether I was living in the flood areas. I was able to assure her, that we were many thousands of kilometres to the south of the crisis area.

Ironically, while all this flood disaster is occurring, over on the west side of the continent, we have reports  of  bushfires causing havoc  – with the following being the recent situation there.

‘More homes could come under threat as a bushfire continues to burn out of control south of Perth.  Four homes have been destroyed and more than 2,000 hectares of land burnt. The fire, which started near Lake Clifton south of Mandurah yesterday afternoon, could affect homes in Tuart Grove. Emergency services are keeping a close eye on an expected wind change that could cause flare-ups. A bushfire alert remains in place for people living between Old Coast Road, Old Bunbury Road and Southern Estuary Road in Lake Clifton to the intersection of Old Coast Road and Southern Estuary Road in Herron. Hundreds of residents, forced to leave their homes as the fire bore down, have spent the night with family and friends or in one of the evacuation centres set up in the area. Authorities are treating the fire as arson after seven ignition points were discovered’………………..thankfully, here in  Victoria, because of the relatively  cool and wet summer we have experienced so far, bush fires have not being a concern, although we do still have the usual hottest two months of the summer ahead of us.

As the day and night progressed, the news on the flood scene grew grimmer, the death toll rose, and numbers of people missing continued to increase. I managed to escape to the relative sanctity of the radio studio this evening for a couple of hours, and during one 25 segment, played a series of lovely songs from Australia’s Jane Clifton [well born overseas actually but came to Australia – Perth initially- as a young girl with her family and has proved to be a very versatile performer over many years – in acting, singing, work in TV, stage and movies, public speaking engagements, in fact a bio that reads like a novel almost. And an album, released back in 2003 called ‘A Marriage of Style’ on which she recorded some wonderfully relaxing songs with the support of a varied team of experienced professional musicians. I enjoyed in particular the title song, and also the very popular ‘Music To Watch Girls Go Buy’. My oasis in a night of disturbing news reports and flood coverage.

Also admittedly, a little bit of concern for my two daughters who had spent the day down at one of our regional beaches on the south coast west of Geelong, a popular resort named Torquay. They had driven down there, and when I spoke to Susie around 5.30pm, had not yet left for the return trip. By 8pm, the weather up this way was beginning to close in, foggy conditions with storm and rain clouds bringing an early darkness to the night. I was worried about their trip home on the roads. I guess Susie my way of thinking – rang me about 9pm, to say she was back in Sunbury, and was spendinga little time at a friend’s house nearby where she has been looking after their pets while they were away. Needless to say, I was much more relaxed from that point onwards!!

Switched away from the progressive news coverage of the Queensland floods, to have a look at the SBS second program in ‘The Late Session – Chat Show’ – another interesting panel tonight, under the cordination of presenter Waheed Aly, with the topic of discussion around the area ‘happiness’  – how we achieve a level of happiness, and the various associated aspects of the topic.  One of the panelists or guests [the program takes the format of a casual dinner party] was singer/songwriter Clare Bowditch whose music I have featured on the radio from time to time – during the course of the show, she sang a couple of songs for us, made a very pleasant mix in the ‘chat’ format. Other guests were Maggie Beer [TV chef and food writer, extroadinaire], Debra Mailman [ Australian Aboriginal television and film actress], Gerry Harvey [self made business millionaire] and Nigel Marsh [Best-selling author, renowned CEO and performance coach].  As the host described one of the guests “Gerry Harvey was very interesting to have on. We did a show on happiness and being one of the richest men in Australia it was very interesting to talk to him about that. You really want diversity so that you get a range of perspectives on [the theme].”   All in all, with the variety of guests, a pleasant interlude to the night’s news!!



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