Australia's flood aftermath on par with New Orleans
In its worst flood since 1974, Australia's Brisbane focuses on speedy relief and a long recovery.
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In Pictures Australia floods
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Assessing the damage
In Fig Tree Pocket, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Brisbane, many homes were submerged. "I felt sick when I first saw my house again," says Marie Gough, who moved out to stay with her son's family. Mrs Gough, went back to visit her home the day after the waters peaked to have a look and saw the tide mark. "The water went right up to my roof," she says.
For her, and for at least 20,000 other Brisbanites, recovery will be slow. First, they have to wait for the floodwaters to recede completely. Then their houses have to dry out. Then they need to be checked for electrical safety. Only then will builders come in and evaluate the damage to kitchens, bathrooms, walls, floors, and ceilings. Some houses may never again be habitable.
Then there is the psychological challenge. Lifeline, an Australian organization that counsels the depressed and suicidal, has reported a surge in calls by those affected.
Still, most evacuees are saying they plan to return to their communities and rebuild their homes.
In Brisbane, the city will be split into five sections so that the damage can be assessed by local authorities. Their task is complicated by the fact that the floods – which began in early December, and have since soaked and isolated scores of small towns – are continuing in many areas.
The Army's role in relief
In scattered rural regions saturated by torrential rain and overflowing rivers, the Army played a leading role in relief efforts, airdropping food and supplies to remote farms. Military helicopters have airlifted people to hospital, including a woman who gave birth in the flooded Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane. With the area airport closed until the end of January, the Army is trucking in food and fresh water. The government's commitment of 1,200 troops is the biggest domestic disaster relief since 1974.
Across Queensland, citizens have been rushing to help one another. In Brisbane, on the eve of the flood's peak, thousands of people, many with pickup trucks, canoes, kayaks, and even jet skis, descended on vulnerable neighborhoods, rescuing stranded neighbors and ferrying people and their belongings to and from flooded properties. "I'm just blown away by the support I've received from my fellow Australians," said Elizabeth Dempsey, who had herself been helped by strangers.
How you can help
Here are a few options for providing financial assistance:
To donate specifically to emergency efforts, you can contact the Australian Red Cross (redcross.org.au).
To donate to people affected by the floods, you can contact the Premier's Disaster Relief Appeal (qld.gov.au/floods).
To help abandoned pets, you can donate to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – Queensland (donate.rspcaqld.org.au/flood).