Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Three days on...

 What the people from this part of the world have experienced during the last few days is, for most, unprecedented.

A situation like this puts attitudes values and perceptions through a blender.

The difference between the way my Gen Y kids and their friends see this, in comparison with those of my generation who went through the 1974 flood is obvious.

Two of my kids are marooned in Yeronga. They're quite safe, But the water is close, and were without power for most of last night when the river was coming up.

They had omitted to organize torches, batteries, radios etc, so weren't too comfortable. They also (in typical fashion) had very little food in the house. With the only accessible shopping centers closed, they were not only uncomfortable but hungry. They have a BBQ but no gas.

Maybe this has been a learning experience......

My wife and I generally prepare for this kind of emergency almost without thinking about it. Being brought up in FNQ* where cyclones and floods are routine may have something to do with it. By the time I was 10 I'd been through two tropical cyclones, one of which destroyed the house we were living in. You learn from these things.

It's frustrating to watch the unfolding tragedy and being unable to help. I spent hours trying to register as a volunteer yesterday, but the website had crashed, and the phone was engaged all day. In the end I was able to get involved unofficially through a veterans' network. Anything I do will have to be local in the short term, because we're cut off on in all directions.

This was a major contrast with the way it was in 1974, when I jumped on the back of a truck and spent three days cleaning up flooded properties in St Lucia. They didn't have many plaintiff lawyers back then.

I was lucky not to get caught up in Monday's flash flood in town here. Just before it happened I set out to drive to Garden Town, a shopping centre which was inundated. Because of the pelting rain I decided to pick up the stuff at a local corner store instead. By the time I'd finished my shopping, the roads were turning into torrents, so I headed for high ground, parked the car and listened to the radio until it was safe to drive home. Lots of people in downtown Toowoomba weren't so lucky. Two days later, local tow truck operators were working 24 hour shifts salvaging cars that had been washed away.

We're facing shortages here now. Because the roads are closed, no trucks are getting through, so milk and bread is almost unobtainable, and fuel is being rationed.

Many of the schools I work in west of here are marooned - some are being used as emergency centers. Not one of the places I work in has not been flooded. What makes this flood different is that it's not confined to one specific area. Every single river system (whether flowing west or east) is in record-breaking flood. Some places (Dalby and Condamine for example) have been inundated for the second time in two weeks.

Despite my grizzling about Gen Y, they seem to have retained the qualities that are characteristic of Australians when things get tough. My eldest son spent yesterday helping mates in Fairfield get their stuff out before the water came. There were young people filling sandbags all over the place in Brisbane yesterday.

Generally people have been cheerful and optimistic. The cleanup will be of epic proportions and will require perseverance as well as optimism.

It will also cost megadollars.

* Far North Queensland

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