Thursday, January 13, 2011


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.


  1. Hi Mary,

    I hope your older brother remains safe from the floods and that you're able to remain in contact with him to check on him.

    For anyone wanting to see some photos of the various flood events ravaging Australia here's a link to a combination of photos slideshow -

    If you scroll down below the slideshow there are individual galleries of pictures for various places like Brisbane, Toowoomba, Ipswich.

    Thank you so much for your prayers and good thoughts, every one helps. God Bless!

  2. Mary, thank you for this post.

    People seem to underestimate the power of rushing water. I grew up in a community at the confluence of four creeks. We had floods annually, but nothing to match this destruction.

    I'm praying for you and the people involved.

  3. Mary, I've been watching pictures of the flooding on our television news, but nothing has been as dramatic as the youtube clip you sent. The speed of the flood is truly astounding. Many prayers for you and your family and for all those devastated by this disaster

  4. Thank you for taking the time to bring us up to date.

    The Youtube clip really showed the horror and power of the flood.

    Praying for the flood stricken areas.

  5. Thank you once again, Kylie for the URL, one I did not know about.
    Judith, I wup with every few years some floods going along those two creeks through Toowoomba - as well asacross the black soild plains. This time it was the severe dump of rain in such a brief time that caused the damage. Hopefully you will never experience that in a danger spot as you have!

  6. Ouch, I'm typing too fast this morning and didn't see the mistake in last comment. I promise I did type "grew up" and not "wup". For some reason this keyboard has been playing up lately. Perhaps I'm not hitting the keys hard enough?

  7. Alice that force of water was the same kind that caused so many deaths west of Toowoomba in the Lockyer Valley and especially the small village of Grantham where they are expecting to find many more bodies. Locals are saying at least 30 still missing from their small community.

  8. Heard from my brother last night that waters receding from around his house. Thank you for your prayers.

  9. Thank you for sharing, Mary. It makes it all seem so much closer to feel I know someone there. We are following all this on the news and praying for you. It's really just heart-breaking.

  10. Thank you, Donna.
    And now as the volumes of water move south down the river system, another Queensland town is praying their levee banks are high enough. Unfortunately this will continue to be repeated in the days and even weeks ahead. Parts of Victoria and even north-east here in Tasmania are also suffering from floods.

  11. I got to the point I just had to turn the tv off as the emotional strain of watching the heartbreak got to much for me.
    I heard Wednesday the road to Horsham from here was cut at Natimuk in Victoria due to floods. then Yesterday the eastern side of My state had rain like we have maybe every 20 years only we have now had it twice in just over a month and had 3 inches which caused flooding on a minor scale. I was watching Sunrise this morning when they mention South Australia and mentioned 3 towns under flood watch imagine my surprise to see Naracoorte my town under a flood watch. We have a creek thats had no water for around 10 years thats now over flowing but the watch was lifted by 9am when as the predicted rain had moved east but Victoria has now suffered.
    My heart goes out for all the people in the flood areas. I spent a little of the day sweeping water away from the house then today out of the garage that flooded on one side just a little then over at the place I clean helped sweep out ankle deep water out of there carport. While doing this and I have to say this was fairly clean water I was really feeling for the ones In Queensland trying to get rid of mud I cant imagine how they do it.
    We are praying here as are many of my friends around the world.

  12. Incredible footage. Hard to imagine such a large area under water, and such a shame that it was just when people were expecting a good harvest. Sometimes it is so hard to understand God's economy. I'm praying that he will work out his purposes.

  13. My goodness, Ausjenny, had no idea your are in the area of possible flooding. I am so sorry you have had this trauma too! Saw the bad news this morning about 12 towns in Victoria alone on flood watch. It is well over 100 years since one town, Horsham, faced such a severe flooding. Even here in Tasmania - fortunately to the west of us - there has been quite severe flooding in several places since I posted about the Qld floods.
    For once I am very grateful for the range of mountains between us and that area.
    Normally I whinge about getting freezing winds off the snow in that direction.
    I might add too about that mud: The Toowoomba soil is red volcanic type and I personally know that it oernanently can stains everything very badly. The black soil in many places out on the Downs can set like concrete.
    And we can know for sure, for every act of heroism, every act of kindness, every trauma being suffered that we see on our news, there are countless more such stories we may never see or hear on the media.
    Heard too this morning one missing man found in the dreadful Lockyer family region but also another body so the death toil is now 18 in Qld. And I do so agree it all seems so minor compared to Brazil. We do need to continually uphold each other in prayer.

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