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Flooded

January 12th, 2011

I’m still on the other side of the planet, but the news from Brisbane is bad and seems to be getting worse. Fortunately, my family and I are all out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, that’s meant we’ve suffered a fair bit of property damage, and won’t be able to do anything about it for some time. I’ll probably be off-air for a while. We’ve had some very successul appeals for help in relation to past disasters here, but I’m not in a position to run one this time. Feel free to use this thread for offers of help to those affected, and any useful insights. Please, no pointscoring or social/political debates – there will be time for that later on.

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  1. January 12th, 2011 at 07:04 | #1

    Very sorry to hear you have had losses and damage John. Best wishes to you and family, we’ll all be thinking of you.

  2. ken n
    January 12th, 2011 at 08:59 | #2

    Yes, very sorry to hear that.
    Slightly edited for spelling and to keep on point – JQ

  3. Jill Rush
    January 12th, 2011 at 09:34 | #3

    Wishing you and your family well Prof Q. It is an enormous natural disaster. I saw that so far over $32 million has been raised for the Premier’s fund so people are donating generously across the nation. My work has organised direct deducations from pay packets. Don’t worry about not being in a position to raise money as this is happening across the nation. It is a most distressing and terrible time.

  4. Socrates
    January 12th, 2011 at 12:56 | #4

    Sympathy and good luck JQ. I’ll make a donation.

  5. may
    January 12th, 2011 at 13:28 | #5

    australia bites.

    images of flood waters in the east and fire and flood in the west.

    admiration and thankfulness for the co-ordinated proffessionalism and competence shown by all state, federal and local services coupled to individuals helping because help is needed.

    regular updated info and aren’t mobile phones amazing.

    i can’t help reflecting on the difference between the images of this climate event and images from other disasters .

    emergencies do cut to and show the bones of a society.

    crack hardy Queensland.
    you are better than you think.

  6. matt
    January 12th, 2011 at 17:26 | #6

    @Alice
    I think your criticism lacks merit Alice. The cost of the Qld floods – which are yet to get worse – will be in the billions, and the gov will pay billions in reconstruction, healthcare, immediate aid and other expenses. The ‘one million’ figure bandied around the place is meaningless – except for political point-scoring. Remember – money at the moment is for emergency relief – not for rebuilding. I’m confident that as more money can be spent – it will be allocated.

  7. Chris Warren
    January 12th, 2011 at 19:15 | #7

    Interesting flood map.

    http://216.121.49.57/floodcop/

  8. Jill Rush
    January 12th, 2011 at 19:45 | #8

    From what I have seen Alice there has been no thought to the cost of the immediate response as lives are saved where they can be and people are sheltered; and sandbagging and moving goods occurs. I have been impressed by the professionalism and dignity of everyone in what is an unimaginable scenario where without good leadership there could be even more dire results. It looks like all levels of government are working together in the way that we would want if it was us who were being affected.

    Anna Bligh may have got other things wrong but she is dealing with the emergency with information and compassion. Processes for the recovery will be dealt with once the crisis is over. Prof Q did ask for no political point scoring because now is not the time.

  9. Chris Warren
    January 12th, 2011 at 20:20 | #9

    @Alice

    It works for me – the icon is a flash icon, so if you have flash disabled (or no plugin), the link will be inoperable.

    It is also available through here:

    “You can also see which areas are currently affected on a zoomable, scrollable map.”

    at: http://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/

  10. Michael of Sumerhill
    January 12th, 2011 at 20:33 | #10

    Alice, unless the weather pattern changes in the next day or two it seems like some parts of Victoria may end up in the same predicament as Northern NSW and Queensland. Fingers crossed it is only a sunshower.

  11. jquiggin
    January 12th, 2011 at 21:56 | #11

    Alice, I was very clear in my request, and you ignored it. I’ve deleted your comments, and request that you stop commenting for a week. When you come back, keep to one comment per day.

  12. Alice
    January 13th, 2011 at 05:45 | #12

    Sincere apologies JQ. Didnt mean to appear unsympathetic. Did not read post properly.

  13. Bruce Bradbury
    January 13th, 2011 at 09:55 | #13

    Chris @ #7. I don’t think that map is accurate. It shows Brisbane airport flooded, which is not the case.

  14. Simple Mind
    January 13th, 2011 at 13:47 | #14

    I understand that the floods are an “Act of God” and as such, most insurance policies are void, is that right? The muscle of the modern “welfare” state going to be welcome relief, I imagine, as charity is not going to cut it (as sincere and generous as it may be).

  15. Chris O’Neill
    January 13th, 2011 at 14:34 | #15

    I understand that the floods are an “Act of God” and as such, most insurance policies are void, is that right?

    Even if the above didn’t apply, insurance companies would often not be interested in the business of flood insurance because the loss in a single event can be so large. It’s much easier for the losses to be spread much more evenly over time such as with car accidents, house fires, burglaries.

  16. Jill Rush
    January 13th, 2011 at 18:26 | #16

    Depends on the policy Simple Mind. Flood is a common exclusion. I felt for the man I saw on TV discussing the fact that he renewed his policy a week ago and rejected the need for flood insurance.

  17. melanie
    January 13th, 2011 at 18:38 | #17

    Hopefully not as bad as you initially thought (and everyone was warned). Best wishes.

  18. rog
    January 13th, 2011 at 19:04 | #18

    Normally insurance covers damage and loss by inundation through storm but not flood and not by sea water and not by climate change. I would expect big losses borne by Brisbane property owners, some houses may no longer be inhabitable.

  19. Chris O’Neill
    January 13th, 2011 at 20:57 | #19

    I felt for the man I saw on TV discussing the fact that he renewed his policy a week ago and rejected the need for flood insurance.

    He could have decided to have flood insurance over just La Nina years. In that case it would have been required only 17 years out of the last 60 (which would have included 1974 of course). This would make flood insurance much cheaper until everyone else also did the same.

  20. Fran Barlow
    January 13th, 2011 at 22:13 | #20

    No insurance pool can work save that a large number of the participants buy protection from something that is no threat in practice, or at the very least hurst them less than the cost of the premium.

    Flood insurance is tough because the entire pool (no pun intended) is about as likely to suffer the same cost. In the end, the only rational way to do that type of “insurance” is to force the entire community (i.e. the taxpayer) to effectively chip in which is a variant of the principle expressed above.

  21. Chris Warren
    January 13th, 2011 at 22:31 | #21

    @Bruce Bradbury

    The default setting is the prediction (which covers the airport). If you switch the options to show the actual inundation, then the airport is clear – or you can show both at the same time.

    Just run your mouse over the “More..” icon at top right – and click options as desired.

  22. Chris Warren
    January 14th, 2011 at 07:29 | #22

    A bit of balance would not go astray…..

    As Queensland goes through its flood, with all its impacts, the same flooding, but worse is occurring in poorer nations.

    400 dead in floods in Brazil – see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12180079

    Maybe this is a phenomena of the same El Nina.

  23. Fran Barlow
    January 14th, 2011 at 08:13 | #23

    Maybe this is a phenomena of the same El Nina.

    You probably meant to say: Maybe this is also part of the La Nina phenomenon In Spanish, the definite article and the noun to whioch it attaches must agree on gender — in this case female {La Nina = “the little girl”; El Nino = “the little boy”); In English, phenomena is the plural.

    Syntax aside … La Nina tends to produce drier conditions on the other side of the Pacific. Northerly parts of Brazil are an exception to this pattern and do get more rain during the La Nina phases of ENSO.

  24. Fran Barlow
    January 14th, 2011 at 08:16 | #24

    Note also, very serious floods in Sri Lanka and some flooding in the Phillippines and in December, closure of the Panama Canal due to flooding for the first time since it opened in 1914.

  25. Fran Barlow
    January 14th, 2011 at 08:27 | #25

    Of course, the current flooding is in South Eastern Brazil, which you wouldn’t normally associate with La Nina, though better qualified people than me have suggested it.

  26. jquiggin
    January 14th, 2011 at 09:09 | #26

    @Chris Warren
    I was talking to a Brazilian friend about this, and also about 40 people dying in the Phillipines, which I saw on the CNN ticker underneath detailed coverage of our floods. Terrible as our troubles are, they are the everyday experience of poor people in poor countries.

  27. Ikonoclast
    January 14th, 2011 at 09:48 | #27

    There is still very little mention of how we could better flood-proof our communities. I daren’t say more as it could move into the point-scoring arena. I’ll await a blog on flood-proofing, flood mitigation etc.

  28. paul walter
    January 14th, 2011 at 09:55 | #28

    Prof Q, hope you are well.
    I detect a bit of pain in that last post. Stuff like this hurts aussies because we are not used to adversity any more, relative to third world contries and the rest of humanity.
    The impressions that stick in my mind are of grim faced people being interviewed returning from holidays at airports, shudderinga the thought of what might greet them when they finally get home, or homeowners or small business people outside homes or businesses that took ages to establish, faced with a crushing vision of the future as Sysiphus-like, with only a senseless grind to look forward to, for as far as the eye can see.

  29. paul walter
    January 14th, 2011 at 10:18 | #29

    Ikon, do you think a good place to start would be a review of zoning laws, to find out why so many places seem to be in flood prone locations, post Qld “floodproofing”, which appears to have been as successful as Victoria’s previous attempts to “bushfire-proofing” itself ?
    But it can all be be referred to a committee and by the time any consclusion is reached, the thing will only be a memory, until the next time…

  30. frankis
    January 14th, 2011 at 10:29 | #30

    Best of luck to you and your neighbours John.

  31. Simple Mind
    January 14th, 2011 at 12:07 | #31

    Are they plans to move several communities? They cannot be rebuilt every year.

  32. January 14th, 2011 at 12:11 | #32

    Best wishes to anyone who has suffered flood damage to property. The people of Toowoomba and Lockyer who suffered personal damage must be terribly affected. For people who can’t or don’t give cash, there are plenty of opportunuties to give goods. Your local councillor might be a good place to start.

    On insurance, IIRC, there is a ‘flood map’ with a topographic line a few metres above the 1893 levels below which no insurer will give flood cover. There used to be a joke in Brisbane that you could only get flood cover if you lived on top of a hill. I’d be very interested if anyone affected actually had genuine flood insurance cover as opposed to standard contents insurance (eg: fire and theft).

    Unfortunately, most people really don’t understand insurance properly and often learn about it by painful experience.

  33. Simple Mind
    January 14th, 2011 at 12:11 | #33

    Er, are there plans to rebuild communities elsewhere or even not to rebuild at all? After flooding on the upper Mississippi in the States, a few communities in the floodplain were simply not rebuilt .

  34. Donald Oats
    January 14th, 2011 at 12:25 | #34

    I was a little lad when the Brisbane floods in the late ’60s happened (1969?/1970?), and then again with 1974, and 1975 in Wangaratta, Victoria. Flood sux big time and I certainly am not the first to wish all the best for the worst affected. As we well know, this continent is subject to a fairly wide range of climate/weather conditions, especially as we endure the wild swings that often mark the end of drought in Australia. These tough changes in the environment are a hallmark of Australia’s ecological uniqueness and diversity.

    One of the more interesting facts I read the other day was concerning differences in the population of Brisbane since 1974 floods: something like 900,000 in 1974 or thereabouts, and 2.2 million now. It is inevitable that some of that population growth found itself in the lower regions: people bought into those housing projects with probably little awareness of the size of the risk. Afterall, who was going to tell them ahead of buying into these housing developments, and once there without flood trouble for a decade or two, flood must seem like the least of concerns – until it happens, and in this case, happens with great force and destructiion.

    If I may pollute the discussion with one small topical point, concerning “Climate Change” in our favourite national daily? Everyone who has had the chance to examine the scientific literature on “Anthropogenic Global Warming”, or euphemistically “Climate Change”, should be quite aware of just how long climate scientists have warned of the increased frequency and size of drought and floods in Australia. And elsewhere. While the global temperature trend – and humanity’s growing contribution to it – has been hammered with misunderstanding (at best), and what it may mean globally, and especially what it means for regions, the inter-related issue of water movement has been under-covered at best. Ignored, really.

    So, to page 2 of the Friday Australian: Joe Kelly has a microscopic article at the bottom right of page 2, quoting from a recent climate change report in Qld:

    QUEENSLAND’S flood disaster may be a taste of things to com, according to a state government study warning of “more frequent and more intense” downpours as a result of climate change.

    …and, in the Australian’s own summary of the report’s comments:

    It urges them [Qld councils] to assume a 5 percent increase in rain intensity per degree of global warming and suggests a 4C temperature increase by 2100.

    Aside from the fact that this news factoid studiously ignores the very real human contribution to the global temperature trend, the article illustrates how important it is for us to have access to these facts in an open and informative media. We need to be aware of these games of innoculation against criticism by insertion of these small, virtually concealed, stories. I wish it weren’t so, I wish these sorts of stories were properly covered during the drought period, as well as during serious floods, and in a manner that assists overall appreciation of climate (change) risks. I do wish it were so, but it isn’t.

  35. Alan
    January 14th, 2011 at 12:34 | #35

    @#23

    If we are to indulge in a little pedantry (and every blogger adores pedantry) we should really be typing El Niño and La Niña.

  36. Fran Barlow
    January 14th, 2011 at 13:32 | #36

    @Alan

    If we are to indulge in a little pedantry (and every blogger adores pedantry) we should really be typing El Niño and La Niña.

    I agree but I had no idea how to type the diacritic tilde.

    Further pedantic note: El Niño used in a religious context, refers to the “christ child” a.k.a. “baby Jesus”.

  37. January 14th, 2011 at 21:42 | #37

    As a local, and having been glued to the TV, internet and radio this week (refuse to buy Murdoch print media), a few observations:

    1. Often, far more than should be the case, the commercial stations are markedly superior to Rupert’s ABC;

    2. There is a huge amount of advertising going on at the moment for insurance. Not just general PR for the big guys but these are slipping out from under every rock, all sorts of outfits you’ve never heard of are selling everything from car insurance through life and funeral to ‘melanoma’ (!!) cover;

    3. There is a relentless drive for CASH!!!! We went and delivered some goods to a bloke down at Nerang today (unit 6, 91/93 Spencer Rd., since you asked) who has donated his removal trucks to take stuff up to Ipswich, Gatton, Toowoomba and beyond all the way up to Theodore and probably beyond. Speaking with him, he made a very good point that despite the corporate charity line “we don’t want stuff, we want cash”, he knows that there are people all along his route waiting for the goods he will be delivering. He will do another run mid-next week with things like furniture and bedding. He had a very disturbing story about a local lady who was trying to round up support, according to him she had ‘a call from a radio station hassling her about whether what she was doing was legal’. He told her to tell those people to “F” off. You can only speculate about which ‘local radio station’ would be doing that, but he says he has the full support of the ‘rock FM’ type local stations such as ‘Hot Tomato’;

    4. “Looting!”, “Rubber-Kneckers!” and “Panic Buying!” Which are obviously ideologically based memes put about by disaster capitalists and their lazy media shills failing their audience (the police commissioner has twice said looting isn’t a real problem, but that has hardly been reported at all – By the way, “Profiteering!” only got a brief run before disappearing altogether. Coles and Woolworths had no cheap bread but plenty of expensive bread when we visited over the last few days).

    All that aside, best wishes to all those in the North, downstream and in the south who are/have been getting a drenching.

  38. gregh
    January 14th, 2011 at 22:21 | #38

    @Megan
    We were three houses away from going under.

  39. January 14th, 2011 at 22:26 | #39

    Phew!!

  40. Chris O’Neill
    January 14th, 2011 at 22:38 | #40

    One other issue with insurance is that State Governements treat it as a milch cow and collect a total of 21% tax on the premiums. It’s absolutely incredible that they got away with continuing to impose stamp duty after GST was introduced, while then pockecting the GST themselves! A completely shameless tax grab.

  41. may
    January 15th, 2011 at 12:13 | #41

    do we have here a water tight case for publicly owned natural disaster basic insurance?

    above and aside from commercial enterprise.

    or am i opening a tin of worms?

    i still reckon privitisation is a misnomer and corporatisation is the word for the sale of publically owned assets.

    but that’s just an opinion.

  42. may
    January 15th, 2011 at 12:14 | #42

    privatisation.

    sheesh.

  43. January 15th, 2011 at 12:49 | #43

    Very sorry to hear of the damage to your home, John. I know from close experience how hard it is to know your home has been threatened by disaster while you are far away. To know it’s been damaged and you aren’t able to do anything about it immediately must be much worse. I wish you and your family all the best.

    I hope the following links don’t conflict with the comments policy.

    Anyone who can travel to Queensland over the next few months can register to help in the clean up with Volunteers Queensland at:
    http://www.emergencyvolunteering.com.au/

    And donations can be made at the Premier’s flood donation site:
    http://www.qld.gov.au/floods/donate.html

  44. Chris O’Neill
    January 15th, 2011 at 14:30 | #44

    I’ve sometimes wondered what would happen if you tried to get insurance just as a catastrophe such as bushfire or flood was bearing down on your home. Now I know. Insurance companies are not idiots.

  45. Fran Barlow
    January 15th, 2011 at 15:21 | #45

    @Chris O’Neill

    It’s a bit like betting on cricket matches. When events that affect the things people are betting on occur, the odds move.

  46. January 15th, 2011 at 19:06 | #46

    Chris #44, I was able to increase my insurance cover when fires were bearing down on our town – and the extra cover didn’t cost me any more money (must have been below the threshold for a rise in premium). I got on the phone even while the fire was heading towards us. Fortunately, the town was protected by effective action from the CFA and I didn’t need the cover.

  47. Chris O’Neill
    January 15th, 2011 at 19:07 | #47

    if you tried to get insurance just as a catastrophe such as bushfire or flood was bearing down on your home.

    The timing of my cite indicated a bit more than this. They had stopped issuing new flood policies last week I presume, even though Wivenhoe dam was still at 106.3% last Friday the 7th, easily low enough to prevent major flooding if it had been managed properly. Perhaps the insurers made their announcement on Monday morning when it was 148.4%.

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