Thank you for this opportunity to share just a very little of the catastrophe that is still happening here in Australia.
Only a couple of weeks ago there were major floods in the northern coastal areas of Central Queensland. The Darling Downs to the west of Brisbane had suffered years of drought but at last there had been good rain, good summer crops grown and ready for harvest, the huge acres of cotton doing very well. Farmers, including members of my extended family were relieved, excited, hoping to at last be able to begin to prosper once more after many difficult years.
Then the storm clouds gathered.
These photos were taken about two weeks ago in the Dalby area not that many miles from the black soil plains where I spent my first nine years.Further west still, whole small towns had to be evacuated as the water moved down the rivers. And today, they are going through a second severe flood.
Queensland is my home state. I grew up on those black soil plains about 100 miles west of Brisbane and between Dalby and Toowoomba. My first book series, the Search Heartsong Presents novels, were set in that area. When I was nine Dad bought a house in Toowoomba, twenty miles further east, and worked the farm from there. It is now a city of over 100,000 people spreading along the cliffs and escarpment of the Great Dividing Range out to the west. From those cliffs, water flows east down the Lockyer Valley towards the large, winding Brisbane River and its tributaries. To the west of Toowoomba the small rivers we call “creeks” flow in and around relatively low, rolling hills for a few miles and then across the slightly sloping plains for many, many miles to the Condamine River. It eventually makes its way to the huge Murray-Darling River basin through two other states and eventually empties into the Southern Ocean.
Ever since I’ve been married, my husband has teased me about my love for the Darling Downs and especially this Garden City of Toowoomba which is still my very favourite of all the places I have lived in.
Last Tuesday a storm cell burst and over two inches of rain poured over the city in about twenty minutes. What some are calling a mini-inland tsunami swept through the city centre. I was glued to our television watching the horror unfold.
There was no warning. Cars were swept away. Major shopping complexes badly flooded. One car was hit by a tide of water at a city intersection. With the help of a small rope, two bystanders tried to rescue the woman and her two sons. As they managed to haul the youngest boy to safety, the car was tossed away and the mother and other son drowned. Sadly, this was only the first of twelve sad deaths now being reported. Thousands of people have been evacuated, whole small towns in the Lockyer Valley have been devastated as the force of nature lifted homes and swept them away with people still inside or the luckier ones clinging to roofs. Statistics are fluctuating and at one stage over 90 people were missing but now forty-five are and grave concerns held for at least nine of them. Twenty-five helicopters are now searching the whole area and many more bodies are believed still to be found.
Many thanks to Robyn Aldridge, a fellow member of Romance Writers of Australia who kindly sent me this You Tube video taken by friends of five horrifying moments that give some idea of what happened just outside their window in Toowoomba. Click on this: A narrow drain becomes a torrent.
On trips overseas, we have discovered that few folk realise just how large our island continent is. To put what is happening in perspective for our overseas friends, I was told today that the area of my home state in Queensland under flood is about the same area now as all of France and Germany together. A fellow member of Romance Writers of Australia, Kylie Griffin is a member of the State Emergency Service team and has posted a blog on her site explaining more about the sheer size of this disaster.
As Kylie mentions, 75% of Qld has now been declared a disaster zone. Heavy rain is also currently causing floods further south in other states. Towns in northern New South Wales are flooding and bracing themselves for more to come. Just heard that areas in Victoria have also been flooded. It has been raining all down the eastern part of Australia. Even here in our lovely Tasmania it has been steadily raining most of the day – but very welcome here as it has been dry the last week or so. Ironically, there are bush fires south of Perth in Western Australia, about the only area where it is not raining! Even as I type this about 11pm our time on Wednesday night,, the flood waters are still rising and flooding the state’s capital, Brisbane, the third largest city in Australia.
I have also been looking at photos and stories from Toowoomba’s local newspaper, the Toowoomba Chronicle. Just click on these underlined names to be taken to the websites.
But there is more still happening. As I mentioned before, Dalby and other country towns out west are facing, this moment, severe floods for the second time in two weeks. Brisbane is still facing a flood expected to be worse than a record one in 1974 and perhaps even as severe as two still greater floods back in the nineteenth century. This evening the Brisbane city centre has been evacuated. Two king tides are expected in the next twenty-four hours and the river will not reach its peak until after them. Lower floors of high-rise buildings along the banks of the river are flooded. Thousands of people are in evacuation centres. Incredible debris is floating fast down the river toward the ocean – furniture, a refrigerator, large boats on pontoons smashing into bridge pylons, huge pontoons, one whole floating, popular river restaurant has broken away and heading down river too.
Although water is now creeping closer to my older brother in a farm house out on those black soil plains not too far from Dalby, I am so thankful my personal friends and family are apparently all safe. Still, many members of my extended family have suffered much loss, their yearly incomes practically destroyed by floods. They are only a very, very few of those tens of thousands of individuals experiencing devastating losses, but at least not grieving the loss of human life as some have to. Well, because of the time zones our blog is set to, I scheduled this post before going to bed about midnight last night but this morning of our thursday, the last hour I have been again watching the TV updates. The Brisbane and Ipswich (town about 30 kilometres to its west) floods reached their peaks during the night which we are so thankful did not quite reach the forecast heights and thus many places not inundated. But still it is horrific. Now we are being shown film from a helicopter of suburb after suburb inubdated. Businesses, industrial sites, shopping centres, many buildings with just the roofs showing. It has been likened to a war zone. They are saying now there are still 12 confirmed deaths plus another man found in a car in Ipswich but not certain yet if because of floods. 74 are now missing in the flood areas with "grave concerns" for 11 - including two whole families.
God doesn’t leave us without comfort and help in these kinds of difficulties. We may often ask those unanswerable “why” questions when tragedy strikes. As I watched the Toowoomba horror last Tuesday, how appropriate were the words for that day in my little daily devotional booklet, Our Daily Bread, especially:
‘Our afflictions, which are for the moment, are working for us “a far exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2Cor. 4:17) And there is work to be done for others-if only to love and to pray.’
The last words reminded me, ‘Our greatest comfort is to know that God is in control.’ By faith we cling to the faithfulness of a loving, all-knowing, wise and Holy God.
Offers of help are flooding into Australia from around the world and for that we are very thankful. However, many of us also covet your prayers above all else.