Queensland is my home state. It’s the second largest in Australia. You can fit France three times over into Queensland and still have room, almost, for the United Kingdom. As I write, 75 per cent of Queensland is a disaster zone.
Floods have ravaged the state for more than a week, and now have reached a frightening, calamitous new stage. Nine people are dead, more than 50 missing. Entire townships have been wiped out. Roads are cut. Industry is at a standstill. The state capital of Brisbane is in various stages of evacuation.
Two add insult to injury, many of the affected areas were hit by devastating flooding only two years ago. And it’s still raining. The worst is yet to come.
I’m living in Melbourne now, texting my friends, checking Facebook and email, watching the nightmare unfold on the TV and the news websites, watching the red dots of flood spots spread like acne across a map of Brisbane as they follow the river towards the sea.
It’s a dichotomy of nature that not long ago, Brisbane’s water situation was dire, much of the state was gripped in drought. In Western Australia, suspected arson-lit bushfires have claimed four. This is Australia, it seems: fire and flood and drought and very few easy breaks.
The comments sections of the newspaper websites are home to venal, despicable inanities, the kind of sneering and posturing that makes you want to poke the writer in the eye.
Fortunately, the majority of the country is showing its kinder colours. Charity coffers are being well supported, all tiers of government are doing what they can. There are choppers in the air and the prime minister is on the ground, sharing the hurt and helping to shoulder the burden of not just survival, but recovery.
There are several aid providers taking online donations: this is one of them — www.qld.gov.au/floods
It’s not over yet. The body count will rise, the number of houses inundated will rise, the misery and disruption will rise. The damage will take years to repair, the economy … well, the impact of all those flooded and unworkable mines is already being felt on the global market. And along with all that, hopefully the compassion will also rise. That the towns and the state will recover, I have no doubt; it’s just a question of how long. This is, after all, Australia.