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Queensland Floods: an Underwater World story

Bob Bonnell evacuating Jean from Chuan Huat Farm, Biloela. Photo, courtesy of Dominique Tan.

Local readers would know that my home state of Queensland is currently experiencing unprecedented flooding – the affected area is bigger than our neighbouring state of New South Wales. For international readers, it exceeds the combined area of Germany and France. The city of Rockhampton is now cut off, with the Fitzroy River still to peak.

While I’m fine and far away, friends in the country aren’t. On NYE, I received a humorous but heart-breaking email from the Tan family of Biloela. Read the email below (reprinted with permission), and you’ll understand what I love about the country (I lived there for >6 years) – it’s the indomitable spirit of the people.


New Year’s Eve, 2010.
Ours is just one disaster story among many. I truly regret the loss of our cars – If only we had shifted them – if only we’d known the large volume of water that would come down from the town (this is not flooding from creeks but storm run-off from the town – our property is below the level of the town). Our downstairs was thigh-high in water and all we’d done was pile things to bed & bench-top height.

Ok – have to go. Have just fielded 5 phone calls – it’s been lovely to hear from friends during a difficult time.


From: Richard
Sent: Friday, 31 December 2010 7:20 AM

We are fine! (sob, sob)

The place stinks.
The grass is rotting, the earth is oozing.
Dead fish and dead pigeons & chooks everywhere.
We are into day 3 of cleaning up.
So far, we’ve taken 4 Toyota loads of dead stuff to the dump (our own dump on the farm is still under water).

Look at the bright side: I’ll know how to set up the farm to avoid flood damage in future.
Also, the bamboo is the brightest they have looked since coming out of the drought.

I had photos taken whilst the water was rising.
Then, I left the camera in the Lexus.
Overnight, the Lexus got drowned.
Now, I’m waiting to see if the memory card will work, when it dries out.

I just caught my chest freezer as it floated out the back door of the carport.
I hitched it to the stairs by the electrical chord, next to the dinghy.
Good thing I saved the freezer.
The freezer had my entire fishing catch from my November fishing trip.
(SES took fish into town) I bought a new freezer, now in a friend’s carport, up town.
We also retrieved a freezer full of meat (about 150 kg) from another freezer that was in another shed.
We had killed a young bull the week before Xmas.

Our plumber, a good friend, restored fresh water to the house yesterday.
Good to have first shower after 4 days (having ‘bird-baths’ before that).
A retired electrician restored power to one of my bore-pumps.
Our normal electrician was stranded at Byfield (see ByfieldGetaway.com)
This enabled to keep all my Soon Hock fish alive (small mercies).
Also, this supplied drinking water to my pigeons that have survived (about 3,000).
Our two builders (they built sheds, etc) and family members, came to help in the cleanup.
They helped to drain water away, went through cages pulling out dead birds, etc.

It’s amazing how everyone came to help.
The numbers of people ringing up to offer help was incredible.
We are just grateful that we are not as badly off as other towns.

We can survive.
It’ll soon be a memory.


The full extent of the Queensland floods will be realised when insurance assessors (currently stranded in Rockhampton) come out to affected areas and determine that some people are covered; some partially covered; and some, not at all. Many producers didn’t or couldn’t insure their animals. Furthermore, insurance companies will be particular about who’s covered under flood or storm water run-off.

Many of the people badly affected by these floods put food on Australia’s table and keep the lights on. It’s perversely bad luck to suffer floods after surviving terrible drought.

Keep these communities in your thoughts. Help out, if you can. And let’s hope the state and federal governments get the assistance packages right and in a timely manner. Country folk aren’t prone to asking for outside help (Moura SES has already closed the donation line, citing the immense charity of nearby Biloela residents), but they’re certainly going to be needing it.

Do you have any photos or stories about the floods?
Please add your words of support for flood victims to the comments.

UPDATE: Reader Lee has a great TIP, which might help those with WATERLOGGED ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT (Richard: maybe it’ll help your camera card?). ***Place water-affected electrical equipment into a sealed bag of uncooked rice for 3 days – the dry rice sucks out the moisture. DON’T turn on the camera/DS/phone until 3 days of drying, as you’ll fry the electricals.*** This has worked for a DS dropped into a toilet and a mobile phone that took a bath. Hope this helps.

  1. Sam
    January 4, 2011 at 6:11 am

    We are supposed to be relocating to Emerald on the 11th. With mire rains expected, we arent even sure the roads will be open by then. We don’t know if the rental we secured is affected. We believe, based on maps it was one of the last to go. So maybe it’s not too bad. But that raises another question – the owners have been living in the house and have just bought a new place and are shifting into it. Is there new place inundated? Do they have a home to live in? Would we be forcing them out of their home? We watch the news and see houses we looked at, well their roofs anyway. We see businesses we shopped at. It’s just so hard to believe it’s the town we visited mid Dec. Shane and I went to Bunnings on the weekend and the volunteers were out raising money for the flood appeal. It was quite surreal to see people raising money for what will soon be your new community and your new friends. It’s so hard to actually have any comprehension of just how devestating this truly is to go through. It’s been amazing to see the Country spirit coming out in so many people. The tradesmen just rocking up to peoples houses and fixing their electricity and water. Others have up to 18 people sleeping on their floors, feeding them and looking after them. I just can’t say that I believe the same sorts of generosity would happen in the big cities. Let’s pray that the rain stops, the water levels subside quickly and these people can get their lives back.

  2. January 5, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Sam, Emerald has been hit very hard, as you say. Most of the town & CBD is under. The people there are made of tough stuff and will pull through. You’re so lucky to have not moved up sooner. I’m sure your positivity and community spirit will be appreciated greatly when you do move up there. Rebuilding lives takes a long time. Good luck to you & your family, Sam.

  3. January 17, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    hi for the information on this page, it states that moura ses closed down the donations. FACT: THAT IS NOT CORRECT. Community requested that no more be sent as they had run out of storage space. I don’t mean to be picky but Moura SES has coped a lot of flack over this and other issues. We don’t make the rules or decisions they are made by the powers that be. I and many others from Moura SES only have to deliver the news. We volunteer.

    • January 17, 2011 at 11:35 pm

      Thanks for that update & clarification, Teresa. People need to know. SES is doing an amazing job under incredible circumstances. No one was able to plan for a catastrophe of this magnitude. It’s important that mis-information is corrected and you’ve done that.

      The people of Moura and surrounds are relying on you and your fellow volunteers. I wish you the strength and courage to continue your important work.

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