Yasi’s tail hits Melbourne

More than four inches of rain overnight (much more in places), hail, blackouts … Yasi’s long tail lashes Victoria causing major disruption and damaging property across Melbourne. Spare a thought for those poor buggers in the regions who’ve already been flooded this year, now copping another soaking and wondering if the river’s coming up to meet them yet again.

Up north, the clean up is beginning while the search for a missing couple continues. These before-and-after images give some idea of the destruction.

So that would be a FAIL for Media Diary then

Had dinner, another coffee, taken some deep breaths… and after re-reading and re-reading these bizarre two paragraphs posted at 9.17am today at The Australian’s Media Diary, I’m still going WTF?

A resident of north Queensland has just called into Sydney radio to say the roof of their cubby house was blown off during Cyclone Yasi.

Also, reports of garage doors being battered. Some poles are down. Palm trees have of course lost fronds.

I’m trying to understand why this piece of copy made it to the internet.

With a headline of “Much ado”, the tone of the piece is pretty much set. Cyclone Yasi: nothing to see here, folks. Much ado about nothing. Probably not the sentiments of those who have lost their homes and their farms, whose businesses are closed if not destroyed. The storm is still making merry with the inland, roads are blocked and washed away, power and communications are cut … we don’t even know, 12 hours after this post hit the Australian’s blog, just how much damage has been done. The Premier of Queensland says thousands will be homeless.

So is it a bad joke? Whose? Why repeat it as the sun is coming up on an unknown amount of devastation — there’s been a hell of a lot more than a few palm fronds blown away up north.

Is it repeating a serious caller — again, from whom, and why select this one for a moment of fame on a blog dedicated to “this week’s take on the Australian media”? (Why is it even on this blog?) “North Queensland” is a very big place — was the caller in Cooktown, perhaps, outside the immediate rage of cyclone Yasi? Or was it a resident cracking hardy while all around them turned to sludge? That’s one hell of a dry wit (always possible; northerners are a breed apart and hard to shake: see the duckhand video for making light of danger or, as the blog would have it, officialdom and hyperbole (a new euphemism for cyclonic winds, presumably)). Actually, that comment under the video does tend to suggest a tone that just maybe this cyclone isn’t as dangerous as we’re being led to believe – the absence of corpses might allow those who think that way a chance to say, see! But maybe it’s the ‘hyperbole’ that’s partly to thank for the absence of body bags.

But back to the Much ado piece that so incensed me: Why publish these two paragraphs that, on face value, do nothing other than trivialise the anguish of hundreds of thousands of people? Is the second paragraph also courtesy of the caller, or is that editorialising/reportage?

Without context, these come across as someone’s idea of a joke: I’ve got no idea who would be laughing.

It certainly detracts from the piece underneath, which seems to hose down a Crikey report, and its apparent endorsement by the blog, alleging a failure to give a damn about the people on Palm Island.

The Much Ado post reflects badly on the writer, it reflects badly on the masthead, and it further exacerbates the stereotypic perception of journalists as little more than vultures and sharks.

I’ve emailed the blog’s editor to ask about the context for posting this item, but I think my concerns above are valid.

ON a technical side, I also wonder if it’s not just a little disingenuous to have an open comments box on a column that, if previous articles on the blog can be judged by, never publishes them. What’s it there for: the Christmas party brag sheet?

Whew… relief after Yasi

The massive cyclone Yasi is dragging its wind and rain inland with flood warnings extending all the way to Alice Springs and South Australia as Julia Creek and Mt Isa brace for impact from the (by then) category 1 storm.

Back on the coast where the cyclone was at its most fierce, the damage is being counted: the good news is, so far, no deaths, no injuries. In other words, all those warnings and all those preparations did the job, and communities well used to wild tropical weather pulled together and, for the most part, kept their cool.

Communities have been devastated and the economic impact, from the cost of restoring infrastructure to re-establishing crops, will continue to be felt. Homes have to be rebuilt, businesses restored, power reconnected. Farmers are once again being drawn across the rack of nature — it isn’t that long ago that cyclone Larry blazed a path of destruction through the same area. There’s a lot of heartache on the road ahead.

But from the summaries at news.com.au, it seems life has won this round — no graves to be dug so far, but three storm babies born.

For the second time in a month, I’ve felt strangely driven to keep vigil with those in my home state who are facing such fearsome odds, such horrible travails. I’m relieved that, this time round, the price appears to be paid solely in materials, however beloved, and money, not lives. There is some comfort in that.

Here is one place where you can donate to help victims of both Yasi and the earlier flood devastation.

Maybe Opposition leader Tony Abbott, instead of asking for donations to help fund his opposition to a Medicare levy proposed to help pay for post-flood damage, can ask contributors to donate to this instead and actually do some good.

This could be our Katrina

Cyclone Yasi is closing in on north Queensland. It’s category 5, of a size and packing a punch that puts it on level pegging with hurricane Katrina, the monster storm that tore New Orleans apart in 2005.

Five years ago, Innisfail suffered the brunt of cyclone Larry. Three quarters of the state is still recovering from massive flooding. Now this.

Spare a thought for Queensland, hunkered down with Yasi expected to hit the coast in just five hours. Yasi’s coming in on a full tide — huge storm tides are predicted, just to add to the woe.

How big is Yasi? Handy reference maps.

The Bureau of Meterology radar shows how the rainfall is following Yasi’s cyclonic motion.

The ABC’s website seems to be among the better ones of posting up-to-date warnings without sucking up too much bandwidth. The network’s 24-hour news channel is feeding in reports from all over the far north.

I’ve been watching the rain radar, tracking the storm’s approach, dumbstruck by the size and the inexorable nature of the disaster now unfolding. It doesn’t give an impression of the wind and the surge and the godawful racket that wind is going to make, for hours and hours while the storm works its way inland.

Good luck and godspeed up there.

Addendum: I just heard that Yasi is likely to reach Mt Isa on Friday as a category 1 cyclone. The town’s about 900km from Townsville on the east coast. I’m sorry, but WTF?