Queensland floods

Brisbane CBD & the Brisbane River seen from the Queensland State Library, 12 Dec 2010

Brisbane before the floods: Brisbane CBD & the Brisbane River seen from the Queensland State Library on the South Bank, 12 Dec 2010

While the big story dominating news in the U.S. right now is the mass shooting in Tuscon last Saturday, January 8 — first news of which reached me via Twitter while I languished in a 10-hour layover at the Los Angeles airport — the news that’s biggest in my mind right now is the catastrophic flooding in Queensland, which is now affecting people I know & places I’ve very recently been.

6 Dec 2010: In-flight entertainment display on my Virgin Blue flight with a live feed about massive flooding in New South Wales

6 Dec 2010: My first news on arrival in Australia was a live newsfeed from an in-flight entertainment display on my Virgin Blue flight from Sydney to Brisbane: massive flooding in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. There was news about flooding in various areas of Australia throughout my visit.

I’m happy to say that I know with surety that at least some of the people I know — Sian & Rachel, with whom I stayed for most of my time in Brisbane — are safe, along with Cuinn the Australian cattle dog puppy & the cats William & Iris.  I texted them last night & got word back that things are pretty grim in some ways, with a king tide (the Brisbane River is a tidal river) expected today at 3:00 PM Brisbane time (that’s 8:00 PM Alaska time) that will contribute more water to the already heavy load of wet coming down from upstream after weeks of rain; but in an IM chat at lunchtime, Sian told me, “I think the underlying philosophy is it’s just water, it will eventually recede, let’s deal.” Overall, she says, there’s a sense of urgency but not of panic, & even from this distance I feel like I’m seeing the best of Aussie character— humour, toughness, resiliency, & especially mateship — in an abundance that no amount of water will drown. Meanwhile, from my reading of maps & my recently acquired knowledge of local geography, I’m pretty sure that their house will be safe from actual flooding, though since they live in a sort of trough they’ll probably have some runoff and a soggy yard from the rains. (As indeed I myself experienced on my last full day in Brisbane, when we returned from a walk in heavy rains along Kedron Brook, which had already overflowed its banks.)

Still, I worry.  I don’t know about my friend “OzMud” & her husband — OzMud who treated me to a trip to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary on December 10. They live in Ipswich, which according to the latest reports is about 1/3 under floodwaters from the Bremer River, with 100,000 without power and thousands evacuated.  Under the assumption she might be without power, I’m going to try to text her just to ask if she’s okay. (As of 3:50 PM Alaska time, still no word.) (Update 12 Jan 2011: I’ve heard from OzMud: she & her husband are both doing fine. Their house was not flooded, but they’ve experienced a number of power outages. You can read her accounts of flooding at her blog, Oz Mudflats.)

One of the guys at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

One of the guys at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Hope he's still safe.

I’m also worried about the critters at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary itself: the sanctuary is in a suburb called Fig Tree Pocket which is right along the Brisbane River & which has been identified by the Brisbane City Council as an area likely to be affected by flooding. Today Lone Pine’s website says the sanctuary is closed “because of the rain,” but I imagine that staff there is working their arses off to move the koalas, ‘roos, wallabies, & all the other animals there to safe ground. (See updates at bottom of post.) And meanwhile, westward of the city in Toowoomba, flash flooding yesterday led to the loss of at least 10 lives, with a further 90 people (at least report) missing.

And frankly I’m thinking a lot about the places I’ve so recently been in Brisbane along the river that is so central to its sense of self, & feeling pretty sad about the destruction afoot in the worst flooding in 50 years.

Map of Brisbane's Cultural Center on the South Bank of the Brisbane River

Map of Brisbane's Cultural Center on the South Bank of the Brisbane River — including the State Library of Queensland, the Queensland Museum, the Queensland Performing Arts Center, the Queensland Art Gallery, and the Gallery of Modern Art.

But Sian’s right.  It’s just water, & it will recede.  The most important thing is to take care for the safety & welfare of people, both human & otherwise. And afterwards, when the waters recede, everyone will help everyone deal with all the stuff.

If you’d like to help

The Queensland Government has launched the Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal whereby funds can be donated online to assist families & communities who in some cases have lost everything to the flooding. There’s a number of ways to donate, including online using major credit cards.

Sources of flood news

9 Dec 2010: Along the Brisbane River. This area is already undergoing flooding.

9 Dec 2010: Along the Brisbane River. This area is already undergoing flooding.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary — updates

Update, 12 Jan (Alaska time): Per my blog stats, some variation on “Lone Pine koalas flooding” are dominating searches that land people at this blog post. Here’s what I know now — as I wrote in my Daily Tweets post:

I’ve heard no specific updates about the animals at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, but there have been two posts on Lone Pine’s Facebook wall thanking sanctuary staff for assistance rendered by way of a care package of food & water given to a man stranded on his yacht on the river yesterday. Which squares with the tremendous (& professional) assistance rendered by Lone Pine staff when OzMud had her medical emergency the day I was at Lone Pine with her in December. Amazing, great people! I reckon the animals are well-taken care of too. Undoubtedly staff are simply too busy taking care of them to update their Facebook page.

Update 2, 12 Jan, 4:30 PM (Alaska time): Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary has just tweeted and updated its Facebook page as follows:

Thank you everyone for your support. The koalas are safe and so are all of the other animals!

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