Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Expression of Gratitude and Shock

If you live close to Ipswich or Brisbane or actually, alot of other places in Queensland, Australia, you have probably seen first hand some of the devastation that the recent floods have brought to so many.

When I visited Australia in 1989, I was told about the flood of 1974 and how Jindalee was flooded and even since my move to Brisbane, Queensland in 2003, I was often reminded that the houses along Oxley Road on the way to Indooroopilly were flooded and how the water covered some of the roofs.  But no, never in my lifetime did I think that I would live to see the day of another tragedy so similar.  In fact, this flood was even more severe than 1974 because the Wivenhoe Dam was since developed in the late 1970's to prevent another flood occurrence like 1974.  The dam holds twice as much water as Sydney Harbour (and that is pretty big!).  So, if Queensland did not have the Wivenhoe Dam, the flooding would have been much worse than that of 1974 - I shudder just to think of its magnitude.

Brisbane is the 3rd largest capital city of Queensland and Ipswich is a large metropolitan area as well.  Brisbane's population is 2,067,663 (comparable to Toronto, Ontario, Canada at 2,503,281 and also covers a wide geographical area) and Ipswich's population is 155,000 (comparable to St Catharines, Ontario, Canada - 131,989).  Many other cities and towns have been affected but I am covering the two cities where I live closest to and at the moment, I currently reside in Springfield Lakes in Ipswich.

When I first moved to Australia in 2003, water levels in the dam were not 100%, but not at dangerous levels - I remember the fun we had at Scarba Street watering the gardens and Jessie, our first puppy used to try to eat the water coming out of the hose.  But within a couple of years, the drought was upon us and Peter took me to Wivenhoe so I could see first hand how low the level was.

Well, in the last year, we have seen the levels rise due to good rainfall and heavy rainfalls sometimes.  In fact, the dam exceeded 100% capacity earlier this year and the gates were opened to, in fact, release water from the dams back in October 2010 which was a big deal and alot of people went to visit, to see first hand and experience a mini "Niagara Falls."

Take a look at this video which shows the powerful water release.

Have a look at this video which shows the powerful release.
So, the rain has continued to fall keeping the dam full and with the ongoing and constant torrential rain that we have been having leading up to Christmas and continuing into the new year, it has meant that more and more releases from the dam were required.  Accordingly, this meant that the water was spilling into the Bremer River en route to the Brisbane River and filling all the Creeks and other waterways connected, not including the rain falling into the catchment areas.

The rainfalls on 7th and 10th of January made some of the regional roads inaccessible for staff travelling into our work and for those of us that did come into work at Redbank on Tuesday, 11th January, we did not stay long - we were advised to leave work before 10:00 am and have not been back since.  Wow!

As I mentioned on facebook earlier this week, I was not holding out alot of hope that our workplace at Redbank would escape flood damage, but alas, we escaped narrowly.  Peter reckons it was 50 meters away from our front door.  I'll post these pictures another time.

We've kept updated of the flood situation via facebook (excellent site by the Queensland State Police) and by the news - various stations and yes, even ABC.  The coverage overseas has been very good and accurate, too.  And I think Premier Bligh has done an outstanding job.  She can hold her head high and know that she has done a fabulous job in this horrific time for her state of Queensland and I think she conducts herself incredibly in the press conferences and she can think quickly on her feet responding to questions.  (Julia could take lessons....oops...did I actually write that?)

So, as we were offline Friday - no Internet - it was very frustrating, Peter & I joined efforts and contacted staff at work to see if anyone was affected by the flood (unless obviously not in suburbs affected). Still no power at work, but our boss will check again on Sunday and we will let staff know if back to work Monday at Redbank.

Today, after a quick call to Canada to speak to mom and dad - no skype yesterday :( - we headed to Goodna to lend a hand with the clean-up but alas, the traffic was a gridlock.  I was not thinking on my feet (I was, so I was a little late in capturing this picture with Peter's IPhone, but I think you get the general idea.

So we rang the coordinator and hence, headed over to the Centenary Suburbs where we used to live and the location of our previous congregation to help out there.

Nothing could prepare me for what I was about to see.  People's livelihoods lost and sitting stacked up high on the curbsides.  The beautiful houses were no longer beautiful but barren of furniture with water marks of how high the level rose and mud and yes, that horrible stench of stinking beach.  The generators were going and water pressures were trying to remove the reminder of the mud and the smell - there was so much sludge on the roads, it made walking almost dangerous.  I nearly fell several times.

The last house we helped at were a lovely couple who had only just returned from visiting their children overseas, arriving home in the wee hours of Wednesday morning only to be told she had to get out of her home.  Very little was sad.  I started the job of cleaning her collection of CD's.  She was so moved by all the people that had showed up to help her and her husband.  A couple of times I thot she looked close to tears - so emotional, but I reached over and gave her a friendly touch on the shoulder and asked her how she was coping and gave her a little hug.  She said she was fine, but her whole life had changed in an instant.  Most everything gone!  She could not thank everyone enough for helping and we exchanged contact details and I've taken the rest of her CD collection home to finish cleaning for her.  It was the least I could do.

People came from all over - some registered at the designated volunteer stations set-up by the councils and others like us, just turned up.  They came from New Farm, Albany Creek, Tingalpa, Bundaberg (this guy had already been through his own flood and lost alot, too!) and from Kenmore and of course, Springfield Lakes, too.

What an incredible and emotional day!

So as Peter and I headed home to our home up high on a hill in Springfield Lakes with very thankful and humble hearts, I asked him to drive by our previous place of residence in Middle Park.

You see, we lived just around the corner from the McLeod's Gold Club and the Peter Lightfoot Oval, both of which were totally flooded out.  I got out at McLeod's and took a few shots - wow....the smell......ghastly!

The brown dirt is indicative of the water level.
Notice to golfers.
Water levels have not totally come down.
We drove around the corner and discovered that our old house had escaped the flood narrowly, but were prepared - hard to see in picture but they had sandbagged the entrance from the patio.
When I say narrowly escaped the flood, the following picture is the house 2 doors up.
What you see in this picture is a very small scale of the mass destruction to homes, businesses and farms that the people of Ipswich, Brisbane and other communities have experienced.  When I think of those in places like Chinchilla and Condamine who have had more than 1 flood within the past 2 to 3 weeks and have had to evacuate their homes and do not know when they will be able to return, I am in awe of the Aussie Spirit.

And, for those who have lost loved ones in the tragic floods including the inland Tsunami in Toowoomba, Grantham and in the Lockyer Valley, I express my sincere sympathies - I cannot imagine your grief and pain; particularly the family whose older brother gave up his life for his younger sibling, to save him.  I also think of those who have family that are still missing and are waiting for word - our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Hence, this blog entry from me today on the eve of 14 January 2011 is both one of gratitude and shock.

To my Canadian friends and family, the next time it snows and you have to shovel, be thankful - for it is not thick and ugly smelling mud.  This past week I have thot many times, I would give almost anything for a snow day over the devastation this flood has caused.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Appreciating God's Creation

I love the ocean - most bodies of water in general actually; lakes, dams, rivers, ponds.  And yesterday I got to visit one of my favourite spots - the Gold Coast.  What can I say? It is a beautiful, majestic view and sound all rolled into one!

View of Surfers Paradise

The sea breeze in my face feels refreshing, not to mention feeling the sand between my toes and then the absolute bliss of just standing there looking out at the beautiful view of blue with the white of the crashing waves.

For some that have grown up with the beautiful beach, perhaps it doesn't hold the same thrill as it once did; but it reminds me to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.....and the ocean is anything but simple.
So, I think for me in 2011, I'm going to make an extra effort at stopping throughout my days and appreciate God's creation and when I have my camera handy, I'll snap a few shots, too and share on my blog.