Living in South East Queensland that has been so devasted by flooding over the last couple of weeks (along with most of the rest of the State), I thought it very important to let as many know as possible just what is happening on the ground up here now. The sense of community really does warm the heart. This is a feeling that I know we can all carry forward to get lives, businesses, and the economy back on its feet.
On Sunday of last weekend, myself and a few mates made our way up to Brisbane from the Gold Coast (about 1 hour north) armed with shovels, brooms, buckets and a gurney to try to at least provide some help to what we have all seen on TV as a truly massive cleaning and re-building task.
It really was quite strange to be driving toward what we knew were devastated areas by passing through surrounding untouched areas that were going about business as if nothing had happened. I suppose you expect that everyone and everything had stopped – thankfully, this is not the case.
We went out to one of the worst areas hit, Goodna, a suburb of Ipswich. This suburb was the one many would have seen the images of where the businesses like the McDonald’s by the highway were totally underwater.
The caravan park on the way in was an absolute disaster zone with dozens of peoples homes scattered like toys throughout. A sobering site was to see a park bench wedged at the top of a tree (photo below – centre tree) – this really gave us a feeling of the magnitude of what happened right where we were standing.
We dropped into the St Ives shopping centre to see if we could assist a franchise owner whose business had been inundated, as it turned out an army of volunteers had already powered through that task.
The store owner asked if we could come out to where he lived at Karalee a suburb about another 15kms away – and one that is unfortunately right in the spot where the Brisbane and Bremer River’s meet. These were the two big water systems that caused all the damage so you can only imagine what the residents of Karalee went through.
We first stopped to help residents on Queensborough Parade, Karalee. It was a hive of activity as I estimate that every house along the street had at least 15 – 20 people working on them. Practically nothing in the houses was salvageable and the piles building up down the whole street were very obviously peoples’ entire lives on the nature strip.
It takes 9 months to build, and then only about 5 or so hours and 15 – 20 people to totally gut a house. This was the story of the day – once a house, now just a timber frame with tiles on top.
Multiply this by about 15,000+ houses and then you get a picture of what is happening up here.
There were so many helpers that we were literally getting in each others way as there is such a tremendous spirit flowing through the entire region with so many pitching in to help.
We decided to move on further down the road and the drive down took as right along side the Bremer River which by now looked so calm and un-threatening. That was strange.
Further down, South Queensborough Parade has been utterly devastated. As it happens the Governor General, Quentin Bryce was there on that day to visit what is said to be one of the worst affected areas – so we were in the right spot.
After a number of proud home owners knocked back our offers for help, instead encouraging us to go further down the street to help, we ended up in Stuart Court.
We spent the next few hours with ‘Mel’ and her husband. Mel is a policewoman. I actually feel a little bad not knowing her husband’s name but he hardly said a word and kept to himself, and as far as I could tell, never came inside the house.
Their house was almost totally empty of possessions – that was all out the front in the driveway waiting for the Army bobcats and tippers to scrape them off the ground and take them to a landfill.
We gutted Mel’s lounge room, bedroom and laundry while others did the rest of the house. We removed all the heavy, stinking, soaking wet plaster off the walls, the waterlogged insulation bats and piled it all up in the driveway with the help of so many friends and volunteers.
If it was your house, would you come inside to see that?
The water came up to roof height in Stuart Court. Mel and her husband and their two beautiful Bull Mastiff dogs had to swim out – she said she thought they were going to die, several times. They swum out of the house with the dogs and got to some higher ground and tried to get into a 4WD which they quickly found was seriously unstable. They climbed out and raced to a 3 story house where the water then rose up to the third level.
An emergency call saw them rescued 2 hours later by boat. Incredible.
There are literally thousand’s upon thousand’s of stories like this. It was a very moving experience to meet these people and see them coping so amazingly well with what is just, devastation. I have no other words to describe it.
When it was time for us to leave and return to our comfortable, dry homes, can you believe that Mel and her next door neighbour wanted a group photo of us all – to remember US!
That was quite an emotional thing – we helped them for just a few hours while knowing they have months – actually, years of re-building their lives ahead of them, and unbelievably they were humbled by the help…..amazing people as we were the ones humbled.
I have uploaded a few photos of the area just to give you an idea of what is needed to be done, and will continue to for a long time into the future. I hope they give you a little more perspective of what is happening in the not so high profile back streets and areas of the entire region.
Please do give what ever you can so that the thousands of families can re-build and get their lives back on track at http://www.qld.gov.au/floods/donate.html
Our thoughts are with them all.