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Floods Continue to Devastate Australia

Categories: Oceania, Australia, Disaster, Environment, Health, Politics

Devastating floods on both the East and West coasts of Australia have caused a war of words over water as well as some high quality online crowdsourcing by our national broadcaster.

First, a telling graphic to bring on the blues, from the BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) about December 2010 rainfall across the continent. Thanks to Christopher Boyce at Aussie Macro Moments [1] for the link.

(Source: BOM [2] Monthly rainfall deciles for Australia)

December rainfall deciles for Australia

The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) has gathered lots of data from the field. There has been a series of online spaces to share flood experiences, including the ABC Qld Flood Crisis Map [3] – Mapping reports for Queensland floods (#qldfloodsmap [4]). The latest has user-generated recovery stories, at After the Deluge (#afterthedeluge [5]):

… a site where Queenslanders can share their recovery stories as the state moves to repair the massive damage caused by its biggest floods in recent history.

Our first regular contributors are Anne and Bruce Chater, a schoolteacher and doctor from the small central Queensland town of Theodore. They've written about their experiences during the floods and will continue to send updates about the recovery and rebuilding process.

If you've been affected by the Queensland floods, we'd like to hear your stories about the clean-up and recovery process over coming weeks.
Voices from the floods [6]

A sample from Anne and Bruce on 7 January 2011:

As childlike as this sounds, I want to be the first to open the doors of our surgery and house. Having worked so hard to block the water, I feel cheated not to see the mess and the mud myself.

I hope the emergency crews have breathing apparatus as I’m sure the smell of rotting vegetation and a town full of deep-freeze units that were not emptied before power was cut and the town was evacuated will be putrid.

That’s nine days of thawed meat brewing in our whitegoods. I’ve heard the best thing to do is to put a strap around the fridge or freezer and cart it out to the dump.
‘Looks like a bomb zone’

UPDATE: The fellow who has been into the surgery to have a look says it looks like a bomb has hit it.
‘Looks like a bomb zone’ [7]

Tigtog has a reptilian take on flood hazards at Hoyden About Town:

Queenslanders are having to watch out for poisonous snakes who also want a safe spot on high ground. One farming couple is sharing their refuge with hundreds of them.

They’re also on the tarmac at the airport, they’re in the beer garden at the pub, and they’re looking for nesting places in evacuated houses.
As if the floodwaters weren’t enough [8]

At En Passant John has a more global perspective on his weekly ‘Saturday’s socialist speak out':

Are the floods a consequence of climate change and global warming? The wild and fluctuating weather – flooding, fire, heatwaves and cold snaps across the globe and in Australia – certainly back the argument of many scientists (including the CSIRO) that global warming will lead to extreme weather events and that such events will happen on a regular basis.

The floods in Queensland and Western Australia fit into that analysis.
The floods in Australia [9]

Melissa Sweet, of Crikey’s Croakey Health Blog, has similar climate change concerns in her quick search of the medical implications of floods around the world. Snake bites aren’t her only worry:

One of the recurring themes from relevant articles seems to be the lack of evidence in this area, especially about the longer-term health impacts and how to prevent/manage them. Yet flooding is among the most common types of natural disasters and is predicted to become more frequent and intense as a result of climate change.
What will the floods mean for health, beyond a fear of snakes? [10]

Party politics have also surfaced with Opposition leader Tony Abbott pushing the unfashionable dams option [11]. There is plenty of blogosphere opposition to his response. Peter at Fact Fiction and Photography, ‘Australian political commentary’, prefers the Prime Minister’s take:

Needless to say Julia Gillard has poured scorn on the idea. Quite correctly she points out that there is no evidence at all that a couple of dams here or there would have made any difference to the flooding.
Tony Abbott to the Rescue? No [12]

This is support for investigating dams from parrabuddy at Skippy Aus:

What i had not realised is that the flood waters from S/W Queensland will flow through to Sth Australia arriving in 4 to 6 weeks time and does this mean flooding there also. Can the experts find a way to create dams along the way to save water for later use. All that empty area and some of the water can't be diverted into empty terrain ? Who thinks about water conservation outside the River Murray Agreement ? How long has there been this disagreement among the states that the focus has only been on this supply system ?

Economics is also a talking point. Along with speculation about a fall in GDP and rises in world coal prices, locals affected by the inundations are lobbying for more government aid. Harry Clarke’s On economics, politics & other things is far from sympathetic:

Flooded farmers in WA who have received $15,000 from the Federal Government and $150,000 in interest free loans say they are getting “bugger all” – they are outraged because they believe flooded Queenslanders are getting $25,000 [14].

The art of community politicking in Australia? Scream loudly until you get a handout from other citizens. The farmers seem to provide the proud independent core of this ‘entitlements’ quoir.
Flooded farmers demand more from fellow citizens [15]

The floods are far from finished [16] yet, much less the cleanup or the arguments. Many rural voters have been reluctant to accept global warming as a cause of extreme weather events. They may well find it more difficult to get financial compensation from the public purse in future decades.

It is less than two years ago that my post shouted Australia: Bushfires devastate Victoria [17] as the worst drought in living memory gripped the nation.

Thumbnail used is from the Flickr page of lordphantom74 [18] used under CC License Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)