Posted by: jkirkby8712 | January 17, 2011

Saturday/Sunday – January 15th and 16th 2011 – Eastern Australian floods continue to cause havoc through Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, and now Victoria.

A strange weekend here in Australia, with floods continuing to dominate most aspects of the media, but more crucially, the lives of thousands of Australian families, and businesses. No state on the eastern side of the continent has estate the consequences of extreme rainfall, and the floods that have followed it. Reports such as the following, which appeared in the Washington post of all places, paints a grim picture as the weekend comes to an end.

‘Australia’s flooding crisis headed south Monday into Victoria state, where record floods were predicted for several rural communities facing rivers swollen from heavy upstream rains.  Officials expected floodwaters to drown out highways and isolate dozens of towns in the north eastern part of the state in some of the worst flooding there in a century’. [Meanwhile] ‘Flooding has also spread from Queensland into New South Wales, where nearly 7,000 people are reliant on airdrops of food and other supplies after being isolated by floodwaters’.

 Up in Queensland, and Brisbane, where I guess you could say it all  started,  we had the amazing sight over the weekend of thousands of people queuing up for buses, etc, to be taken to the main flood affected areas of the city, where they became volunteers – helping in most cases, people they had never met before, to clear their homes of damaged furniture and other possessions, clearing out gardens, back yards, driveways, etc, of the tons of debris, mud and other material, that had been left behind by last week’s flood waters, After a bit of confusion on Saturday, things became much more organised by Sunday – huge piles of rubbish been placed on streets to be picked up by as convoy of dump trucks, or any vehicle that could transfer the ‘flood’ rubbish to makeshift rubbish  dumps, which were in turn eventually cleared and removed to official landfill sites.  It was all a brilliant example of  a massive community effort  –  I guess in the smaller towns and communities that had been affected by the Queensland floods, you would expect this kind of community people response to the needs of others affected by such a disaster. But in Australia’s third largest city  –  well it came as more of a surprise, a kind of mass response where people of all ages came from every direction of the compass simply to ‘help’ those who had suffered from the week’s events.   Some of the individual situations depicted by the media had quite an affect on this viewer.

The death toll, in the meatime,  from the Queensland floods is now 18 dead, with the discovery of a woman’s body in the rubble of a home near Grantham, and the body of a middle-aged man found in a pile of flood debris near Lockyer and Gatton Creeks, between Helidon and Withcott. 14 people are still officially missing. The search for more dead bodies in the stinking mud and debris in the Lockyer Valley [to the west of Brisbane] has now been extended and will continue for several more days. Many soldiers are searching on both banks of the deep and dangerous Gatton Creek, where waters are still flowing fast after the flood tsunami last week.

At the same time, it was disturbing to realise the extent of damage that had been inflicted on such a large part of inner suburban and the CBD area of Brisbane. While homes and businesses are likely to be a much longer repair issue, it was noted the determination of the government authorities to get the streets and roads cleaned up and cleared of the metres of mud and debris as quickly as possible – the aim being to open the streets, get the traffic flows moving again, and generally where at all possible, allow citizens the opportunity to get back to work as soon as possible. 

Down here in Victoria however, over this weekend, and extending through from Friday, ‘Victoria’s flood devastation was reaching a peak, with by tonight [Sunday] some 45 towns throughout the state having being affected by some degree of flooding. In some of our country towns such as Horsham, Charlton [my ancestral town], Rochester, etc, the floods or potential flooding was being described in terms of  one in a 200 year flood event, or the worst recorded in modern history for parts of the state, and as I write this, there are a number of towns in the north and the west of the state still to potentially face the worst of it. Most of the major rivers in those parts of the State, are overflowing in capacity, and continually threatening towns downstream.  In many ways, the affects overall, have not been as severe as what happened up in Brisbane, but I think that as far as any resident down here whose home or business has been flooded this weekend, that would be small comfort, Meanwhile, it is anticipated that many more towns could be affected in the days ahead by the extreme rainfall that has battered the state, and many of those towns have already endured two other floods over the past five months.  No drought at all that the drought of the past decade has broken, but for many farmers who were close to breaking point before the rains started to come, the ruination of crops through these floods  –  the prevention of sowing, and of the planting of a new season crop – one shudders to think where such people can turn to now!

A couple of reports from the Age newspaper give some indication of the seriousness of the current situation:-

Echuca and Horsham are set to be hit by their worst floods in 100 years as Victoria deals with unprecedented conditions.  The swollen Campaspe River could flood up to 100 Echuca properties when it peaks tonight Hundreds of businesses and homes could be flooded in Horsham on Monday and Tuesday when the Wimmera River near the town peaks at midday on Monday. New emergency alerts were issued to two other north-west towns today, with Culgoa residents given an evacuation order, while a flood warning was issued for Quambatook.  Around Victoria, more than 3500 people have fled their homes, 43 towns have been affected and more than 1400 properties have been flooded. From the air, parts of north-central Victoria resembled massive inland lakes today.

State Emergency Service (SES) operations director Trevor White said the flood event was one of Victoria’s biggest since records began.  “In some of our river systems, we are seeing unprecedented stream rises, the bureau hydrologists are working in close liaison with catchment management authorities at the local level,” he told reporters. “The situation is quite dynamic … as the modelling continues and we continue to monitor stream rises as it moves downstream of the current peak flows some of those figures will be adjusted.”  On Sunday Premier Ted Baillieu visited Echuca and flood-ravaged Carisbrook, where he said essential services must be fixed in the town, including its sewerage system.  “Clearly these floods are causing significant grief around Victoria and arguably this flood event is one of the biggest in Victoria’s history,” he told reporters.

Ironically, for most of this weekend, the sun has been shining, and it has become quite warm, but obviously the waters that have built up over recent days, are still on the move, hence the fear of further towns ‘down river’ still in the line of danger.  The weather allowed me to get out into my garden for a few hours on both days, though I would be disappointed on both occasions that I didn’t get a fraction of what I had intended, completed. The heat of the day, in both instances,  and the undeniable truth, that I simply can’t spend a full day in the garden, as in past years [certainly not with the nature of maintenance work I currently have on hand] is proving to be a bit of a hindrance.  I would be surprised if we get the same degree of rainfall over the next 6 weeks or so as the first half of summer has brought us – one must anticipate a few weeks of typically hot Summer weather from this point onwards!  Certainly, the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting drier weather in the affected flood regions this week.

Moving away from the flood concerns, I finally caught up with my travelling son – he returned from London on Monday night, but I’d not had the opportunity to catch up with him since then.  He was back at work now [as a baker] and called in to see me briefly on Saturday morning, before he travelled down the highway for a game of cricket with the local team –while his visit to England, Scotland and Paris had been relatively brief, and limited in where he was able to go. I was pleased to hear that he was keen to return at some future time. The cricketing mate he went over to Europe with, was in fact still on the continent somewhere –he obviously had more funding behind him [and perhaps time available] to be able to extend his trip.

Thinking of cricket, I noticed that the Australian and English Women’s cricket teams were currently engaged in a 20/20 cricket series here in Australia at present. The ABC actually telecast the third of those games [best of five] today, and while I’m not really a fan of the 20/20form of cricket, a had a look at part of the match – it’s not often that our women cricketers get much media coverage, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to watch a bit of it, in-between periods out in the back garden.   It seems that the English are also quite dominant at present on the women’s side of the game, having already won the first two games of the series, albeit narrowly. Today was no exception, with the same outcome, although our girls had a bit of a chance near the finish.  That result meant England won the series!  Better news with the Men’s team –  after a disastrous Summer so far, in all games against England [losing both the Ashes series, and the recent two match 20/20 competition [which I took little note of], today in Melbourne, saw the first of the One Day international games between the two countries, and in a high scoring match, Australia for a change, on recent performances, came out on top!!  A world-class score of 161 runs by Shane Watson, helped Australia to a 6 wicket victory over the English  –  my internet cricket loving friend over in the UK has been ‘very noisy’ of late, with her ‘advice’ about the poor performing Australian team – I wonder if I will hear from her tonight!! Final scores – England: 294. Australia: 4 for 297

Meanwhile, the Australian men’s soccer team, competing in the Asian Cup finals, played their second game over the weekend, and achieved a 1-1 draw with South Korea. A better result might have been hoped for, as they now have to avoid losing to Bahrain later this week, if they wish to progress further in this competition!

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