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11 January 2011 @ 11:33 pm
Queensland floods  
It's been raining in Queensland for about two months. For thirteen years there was barely a drop, but over the last two, there have been repeated floods. This year's are the worst. The ground is sodden and the creeks and rivers have all overflowed. An area the size of France and Germany combined has been submerged for most of the Christmas/New Year period, and people have been swept away as the water crept slowly through the state, isolating farms and country towns and cutting major highways.

Yesterday the water stopped creeping. Instead a wave that has been described as an inland tsunami barreled through Toowoomba and neighbouring areas, sweeping all before it, including houses that were lifted off their stumps and smashed against the next building, or in some cases their own back fences. Cars were stacked in piles against walls, and giant water tanks and shipping containers went bobbing down the street.

You can see the force of the flood in this video, which shows a local creek rising and rising. Only two people died in Toowoomba, which is nothing short of amazing, but so far another eight are confirmed dead in neighbouring towns, and 78 are missing.

All that water is moving down the river system now, some of it to New South Wales, where at least everyone has had warning and a chance to evacuate. There will be property damage again, but it should be mostly fine.

The rest of the water is headed to Brisbane, Caboolture and Ipswich. Brisbane is the capital of Queensland, similar in terms of importance (if not culture) to Liverpool or Chicago. At least 6500 properties will go underwater, even if there's no more rain. At the moment they are projecting it will be more like 9000. There has been a day's warning, and the people in the region have spent it packing -- some have been packing for complete strangers, helping them to load up belongings and save what they can. Toowoomba has warned people, and they are evacuating early, though so many roads are cut, many can only go to safe public areas rather than family in other towns.

The last major floods in Brisbane were in 1974. In response the Wivenhoe Dam was built to hold back the water so it could never happen again. The dam is full now, and it can't hold the water back any longer. They are having to make controlled releases so the dam continues to stop a catastrophe. But it can no longer protect the city from a flood. The best advice says that it will be worse than 1974.

In Ipswich, it is expected to reach 22 metres (24 yards), and the power is being cut off in an hour there. In Condamine, which has only just dried out from December, the water is coming back and 42 of the 60 homes there are expected to go underwater. Again.

They're being typically Australian about it all. In Toowoomba a woman told of throwing one her her daughters from her flooding shop to a man on the street while she swam out with the older girl. Another man, whose home was collapsing beneath him as he climbed onto the rood said that he just jumped onto the neighbour's roof, which was better. As people do, they have saved each other where they can, and acts of great heroism are being shrugged off as nothing.

If you are in the area, or have friends and family there, the ABC has an interactive map showing road closures, water contamination, power cutoffs and other hazards. If you're fine and have power, take a moment to update it when you can. Thanks rdmasters  for the heads-up on that one.

If you have spare cash, the ABC has a list of donation points, or there is the Australian Red Cross, who are already in and helping. These are mostly poor areas, people who cannot afford a home in a higher town, or farmers who were hoping for a good crop after years of mostly disastrous ones.

Our friends and Mr B's family in the region continue fine, so far. They're more likely to be inconvenienced by contaminated water or power cuts than at risk from the floods given where they are.  remuslives23  hasn't checked in for a few days, I suspect (and hope) this may be because she is out doing something useful as she is in the middle of the region.

Keep safe, you Queenslanders.
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Blytheblythely on January 11th, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this - it makes more impact than the rather random Euro-reporting. Inland tsunami????