15 January 2011

Cry me a river...

It is with a very heavy heart that I am blogging, but I want to get it all down - the way I feel about my beautiful city.  What a week.  As you will know. Queensland has been inundated with flood waters.  This week was Brisbane's turn.  This photo above really typifies, in my opinion, the last couple of weeks around here.  The army have been evacuating small towns, other towns have been devastated by walls of water bearing down on them and in Brisbane, we have waited with trepidation as the brown waters of our beloved Brisbane River have crept up and up and up, swallowing so much that is precious and dear to us.

 This picture above is part of the bike path alongside the river   :o( 
This is the Regatta ferry wharf going under.  No more CityCat services.  No more ferries on the river until they can build new jetties…

My brother has been up here with the CNN crew covering the story and they've posted a few things on their website including this video from Wednesday, just before the river reached it's peak. On the Tuesday night, before the correspendent Phil & cameraman arrived, Hugh and I went down to the Regatta Hotel to see the river and to interview a few people.  It was just amazing, even then, to see how fast the river was flowing and to see pontoons, jetties and boats, all broken free from their moorings, rushing downstream and out into Moreton Bay, some of them bouncing off bridge pilons.  The destruction was unbearable to watch.  Little did I realise what was to come.  
The remains of the wonderful floating river walk which is so heartbreaking to me 

I know it's wrong to mourn the loss of something so material when people have lost their homes and everything they own (and their lives), but it has really upset me, seeing all the beautiful riverside walkways washed away or flooded and broken.  I have pounded these pathways over and over for the past three years in my quest for athletic greatness.  How often have I joyfully thought about how lucky I am to have such a fantastic place to run, with views of the river at every turn.    Now it's all gone and the houses we run past have all been flooded to their windows and higher.  It's so devastating for the city!  
Here is our wonderful State Library and beside it, the very new Gallery of Modern Art, both with their fabulous collections of treasures.  Apparently, water flowed into the ground floor of the GoMA, damaging the childrens' section. 

The Brisbane River on Wednesday, prior to it peaking on Thursday morning.  You can see debris floating downstream.
The milk department at Coles on Thursday morning.  

People have bought up all the milk, all the eggs, all the flour, all the petrol…  Fresh veggies are running low.  The Rocklea Markets (main distribution point for fruit & veg for Queensland) have been inundated with floodwaters so no-one is quite sure when we will start receiving fresh supplies.  Meanwhile, a couple of suburbs west of Brisbane are completely isolated & have required helicopter drops!

So, as you can imagine, we have all been in a state of shock, disbelief and grief this week.  Personally, it has made me realise how I really feel about this city. I've always been a bit ambivalent about it but now I see how important the river is to my life - it forms such a big part of it.  I am so familiar with every flooded neighbourhood and almost all of my activity is impacted by the flooding.  It's been particularly eerie in the leadup to the flood peak, with people "bracing themselves" and business being closed, roads blocked, choppers constantly flying overhead…  Several friends have been flooded but it's actually been difficult to get to there to help them because of the traffic and because roads are still blocked.  

The only "flood damage" we've had is this.  Our bookshelf fell off the wall - woopty doo.  Admittedly, it was a big shock and possibly due to warped walls or swollen timber, but compared to the damage others have sustained, it barely rates a mention.  

Today, just about every able-bodied person in Brisbane swung into action and lined up to volunteer in the clean up.  Spud was working but I turned up, registered and ended up on a bus to Indooroopilly - just about right where that arrow is.  The entire neighbourhood pretty well went right under water.  Most houses had a high-water mark about 2.5 metres high (10 feet?), and as most of the houses were low-set Queenslanders, they have lost everything - refrigerators, beds, televisions, hot water systems, rugs etc.  You can't begin to imagine the mess and the devastation. 
This pefectly good car has been underwater and is probably now ready for the dump.

This was the house next door to the one I helped tidy, which was the same style.  We couldn't do anything with this house because no-one was home but the thought of the mess that is waiting in there is horrible.

This is the reality of a flooded neighbourhood right now

I had a go at tidying up this bathroom.  Basically … everything into the garbage… See the toilet roll?  It's wet.  This was in a high-set house

With one of my fellow volunteers outside the house of a guy called Jim, who was wandering about totally dazed and confused.  Gumboots $20 at The House of Target… 

Those who couldn't do the manual work channelled Nigella and came to the site with cupcakes, cookies, sandwiches and drinks. One of the flooded houses even brought out their barbecue and a gas bottle (no-one has electricty) and put on a sausage sizzle!! 

My brother and his CNN crew posted a good story about the clean up, which gives you a bit of an idea of it.  I can't work out how to add it so I will hyperlink it.  The news coverage has been incessant and informative but you get to the point where you just can't bear to see it anymore. I think the most distressing for me was seeing the flooding from the air on Thursday morning. It really brought it home - with a thud.  I saw so many familiar places, including where I should have been doing my Thursday morning run, which was submerged.  The Premier and the Lord Mayor have been excellent in their provision of information and services and I've not heard one person grumble or complain about anything.  Really, despite the tragedy and disruption of this flood, it has been incredible to see how the community have grouped together to help eachother and support eachother.  It's fantastic!  I think it will make Brisbane an even better city in the long term.   Now we just have to work hard, stay positive, remain patient and most of all, hope that the 50 or so people still missing in the Lockyer Valley will be found safe and well.   
My brush with fame!! - Phil Black, CNN reporter.  I was trying to get some tips from him  :o)

And just when I've recovered from the shock, the dismay, the depression and the despondence, along comes this photo of the lovely Mr Colin Firth, just to put the smile back on my face!   Thank you New York awards ceremony and the beautifully tailored three-piece suit.  Now THAT is something you will never see in Brisbane…  (the 3-piece suit, not Colin Firth!  Though probably he will never be here either)
Look at that saucy come-hither look!  

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