Queensland’s summer of disasters クイーンズランドの「災害の夏」

2014.01.09 (Thu)

800px-Barnoona_Road_in_the_Brisbane_suburb_of_PaddingtonPhoto by Rae Allen (Flickr: IMGP6016_rosalie) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Brisbane is a city of 2.2 million people, with the large, lazy Brisbane River running through the city centre. It has a similar climate to Okinawa, and it’s a slightly humid, relaxed kind of town.

However, the spring rains that started in October 2010 kept going until the following January, and combined with a cyclone hitting the north of the state, some 75% of Queensland (about 3.5 times the entire area of Japan) flooded and 38 people lost their lives. This is known as “the Summer of Natural Disasters” in Queensland. It will be the third anniversary of that summer in January.

There had already been an ongoing natural disaster in Queensland for the ten years before the floods, with 60% of the state under record-breaking drought. It seemed no sooner than the drought declaration was lifted, the floods began. Even though natural disasters are pretty common in Australia, to go from record-breaking drought to record-breaking rain made a lot of people joke, “We must have annoyed the bloke upstairs!”

On 10 January 2011, the event that came to be called the “Inland Tidal Wave” happened. Following weeks of drenching rains and sodden soil, the rain that fell on that day at the rate of 160mm an hour turned directly into runoff, and became a flash flood. After slamming into the town of Toowoomba at the top of the Great Dividing Range, the wall of water rushed down the range to swallow up the towns in the Lockyer Valley below. In a hellish event, cars and buildings were washed away, and 23 people died.

The following day, the water began to rise in Brisbane city, and some 20,000 houses were flooded across the area. Over the two days that the floodwaters peaked and receded, we were asked to stay in our houses unless evacuating. All we could do was sit and wait and listen to the radio.

Australian culture, based on ideas of egalitarianism, includes the concept of ‘mateship’. It means that you treat everyone the same, and you help people who need help. This idea of mateship could be seen in the “Mud Army”. As the flood warnings were lifted, people began appearing from all over. Wearing gumboots, and carrying gloves and shovels, people worked together in the days after the floods to clear debris from damaged houses and gardens, streets and roads, parks and schools. Those who couldn’t do the physical clearing helped in other ways, such as making food and watching children. I got out there too, covered in mud, clearing away broken trees and bits of buildings. It was an amazing event, and it restored my faith in humanity.

So, with this three-year anniversary of that time, in remembering those people who lost their lives alongside the strength of the Mud Army, perhaps we can reflect on both the horror of natural disasters, as well as the strength and wonder of humanity.










One comment

  1. The place has grown a little. Good story though. Just needs a tiny dot.

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