North Queensland has been declared a disaster zone, and it is heartbreaking. My family and friends – and thousands more – are living with the consequences of what has been labelled one of Australia’s most catastrophic events. The one-in-a-500 year flood event has left devastation in its wake.
At the time of writing, a friend is missing, swept away in the torrent of water flowing from the Burdekin River.
All we can do is pray for this lovable, kind larrikin with who we shared laughter. We pray for his family and close friends, many who have spent days searching the flooded waters with hope in their hearts.
There are lives lost, homes destroyed, more than 300,000 head of cattle dead in the western region of the state. Farmers who faced months of drought have now had any hope of salvation destroyed.
In Townsville, parts of the city look like a bomb site. My former suburb was inundated, water flowing through streets and into houses. Residents’ belongings sit on sidewalks, now nothing more than a pile of damp, muddy mess. I’m told that the photos and vision do not compare to the reality, the heartbreak.
My brother and his wife have spent the past two days cleaning, desperately spraying vinegar in the hope their belongings can be salvaged. Their couches dumped, clothes, shoes, cupboards, my 18-month-old nephew and five-month-old niece’s books and toys binned with no hope of removing the overwhelming mould.
And, they are the lucky ones.
One heartwarming moment to emerge from the mess is the sense of community spirit. Emergency service workers, Army personnel, business and the community working together to help each other.
That north Queensland spirit and resilience shines. Sitting here, taking in the blue skies and perfect beaches, it could be easy to ignore the grief and pain. But, we are Australians, and when disaster hits, we get in and get the job done.
This week the Federal Government announced it will provide immediate payments of $1 million to each of the affected shires.
“This payment will be for them to use on priorities they deem most urgent – whether that be rate relief for impacted properties, infrastructure, or the disposal of cattle which have perished,” Scott Morrison said.
It’s not much, but it’s something and it is also a timely reminder of the need for the entire community to pull together.
Donating to the Queensland Floods Appeal is one way you can help. Through the appeal you can donate to the Australian Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Vinnies and Uniting Care Community.
Clothes, books, financial contributions – it all helps.
The floodwaters may be receding, but the tears have only just begun.