Hi I’m Jason Forbes, Xero Account Manager based in Brisbane. The last week has been quite an experience. We still have a long way to go.
December rainfall was incessant with Brisbane’s wettest December on record in the past 150 years. 2010 was the third wettest year on record for Queensland. Australia and Queenslanders were empathetic for northern QLD towns such as Bundaberg and Rockhampton devastated by flooding. Empathy quickly turned to shock and grief as flash flooding in Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley just west of Brisbane claimed lives.
Predictions of flooding exceeding the Brisbane flood of 74 seemed almost unreal. There was an initial sense of denial or complacency from my friends and family as the disaster began to unfold in seemingly slow motion. However the compelling site of endless debris coming down the rising Brisbane River was not only an indication of the damage occurring in outlying area’s but an ominous sign of things to come.
When the Brisbane River burst its banks the threat became visible and already building sense of urgency kicked in.
I live two suburbs away from Yeronga – a Brisbane suburb severely affected by the flooding. I helped one friend sandbag his house however as waters rose we were left wondering sandbagging would enough. I helped another friend move important belongings out of his out house and larger items to the second floor. I then shared his fear and uncertainty as he walked away from his home in the face of the unstoppable rising water.
There were quiet moments where the reality of what was happening became overwhelming. Seeing the power and ferocity of the rising Brisbane River first hand was sobering. Witnessing homes slowly being engulfed was numbing and surreal.
Fortunately fear and helplessness could be temporarily muted by helping others.
Mucking in and helping had the added benefit of seeing neighborhoods, suburbs and a city all pull together. People who’d secured their own houses helped their neighbors. Strangers in outlying suburbs rallied and came to help families evacuate. There was an incredible sense of unity and compassion – a great testimony to the human spirit and people of QLD.
At the height of the flooding I had family and friends cut off and surrounded by rising waters. Another friend watched as water levels rose close to the height of our sandbagging but remained safe. Other friends had been forced to evacuate as their houses were swamped.
The night the Brisbane River peaked was a sleepless night for most people close to or effected by the floods. It was a reprieve when the river didn’t quite hit the expected flood levels saving some properties. However feelings of relief were quenched by early morning images of the devastation.
The Internet in a disaster
Throughout this past week the power social media has been invaluable. It has been extremely empowering to have access to live, streamed crucial information coming through quicker than radio or television.
From the Brisbane City Council website I was able to identify not only the threat to my family but also highlight the threat to friends and family in the predicted flood zones
http://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/media/Fig127_12000_Inun_south_2000.pdf. The City Council website also helped in preparing with sandbag locations – http://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/#sandbag
From the bureau of meteorology website I was able to access river levels live – http://www.bom.gov.au/fwo/IDQ65389/IDQ65389.540198.plt.shtml
Monitoring upstream river levels in Ipswich provided 30 – 60 minute window of what was about to hit Brisbane -http://www.bom.gov.au/fwo/IDQ65389/IDQ65389.040831.plt.shtml
Facebook provided instant updates from the Queensland Police whose updates became invaluable, provided a sense of control and corrected much misinformation http://www.facebook.com/QueenslandPolice
The energex website helped prepare for planned power outages as the power began to be cut across Brisbane – http://www.energex.com.au/network/asp/electricity_interruptions.asp
Using hash tags #QLDfloods #BNEfloods #thebigwet from within Twitter also provided extremely timely, instant and immediately useful information both from emergency services and individuals.
Traditional media such as Television – although streamed live online http://www.abc.net.au/news/abcnews24/ – proved to be less timely with information being reported 30 – 60 min after I’d found out through social media sources. There was a moment where I had an epiphany as I realized traditional sources of information had been surpassed by new technologies. Live, real time information had empowered and informed those who were plugged in allowing for better decisions to be made in a life threatening situation. Unfortunately not everyone is aware of these new information sources. We are at the forefront of and exciting era. Internet technologies as an enabler can improve many areas of life – especially in times disaster.
As floodwaters recede the huge cleanup has begun. Even though the threat to life has gone, the generosity and community spirit continues to be felt with armies of volunteers helping with the cleanup.
Impact on business
Right now we’ve only had to think about the impact on family and friends but over the next few weeks the impact on people’s livelihoods will hit home. Here are some quick links I’ve found.
ATO have granted an automatic monthly extension to businesses in flood effected areas for December Monthly Activity Statement lodgements. Also on this page is other ATO assistance available, such as reconstructing tax records: http://ato.gov.au/corporate/content.asp?doc=/content/00266886.htm
Businesses who have lost their financial records can contact the emergency support information line: 1800 806 218
The Fair Work Ombudsman has released information to assist you when your employees or your workplace is affected by a natural disaster. You can find the information here:
The Queensland Government has announced that the victims of Queensland’s floods (residents in declared disaster zones) can now apply for free replacement birth, death, marriage or change-of-name certificates. They can apply at a courthouse or a Queensland Government Agent Program office or phone the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages on 1300 366 430 or email BDMfirstname.lastname@example.org
Government assistance is available for small business – http://www.business.qld.gov.au/risk-management/flood-assistance.html
If you live in or near an affected area you can assist with cleanup here – http://www.volunteeringqld.org.au/
If you can’t physically help your able can donate here – http://www.qld.gov.au/floods/donate.html
What happens next?
It’s still very early days and there are still many people waiting for news about their loved ones. Many places won’t have electricity for a while so we’re only just starting to be able to plan what happens next.
Thank you to family, friends and colleagues for your support.
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