7th January, 2011
“There is so much water…” says Salvation Army Captain Meaghan Gallagher, speaking from Rockhampton which, like so many towns in central and northern Queensland, is facing its worst floods in decades.
THE FLOODS: With thousands of homes affected, the clean-up effort is expected to take months.
“Roads that you wouldn’t expect are rivers. I’ve only been here two years but people tell me they’ve never seen anything like it before.”
With thousands of people evacuated from their homes, Salvation Army volunteers have been helping to man evacuation centres to provide food in three of the most affected communities - Emerald, Bundaberg, and, most recently, Rockhampton.
“The response we have in those emergency circumstances is to feed (people) at the emergency evacuation centres,” explains Captain Gallagher.
The Salvation Army had about 25 volunteers working at the four Emerald evacuation centres and another 25 working in Bundaberg. In Rockhampton, there’s around 70 volunteers involved in making and serving meals.
Captain Gallagher says that while people in the evacuation centres are in shock, people are making an effort to support each other.
“They’re fairly resilient really. I think the test will be when the waters recede and they actually go back and see the effect that the water’s had on their property. That’s probably when they’ll need the most support behind them.”
The Salvation Army will be involved in pro-actively supporting people during what is known as the "recovery phase".
“We just try and support them the best way we possibly can,” says Captain Gallagher.
As well as providing people on the ground, the Salvation Army’s Outback Flying Service has been involved with its newly commissioned helicopter delivering supplies to properties cut-off in the Rockhampton area.
With flood waters in Rockhampton believed to have peaked this week, Captain Gallagher says that it is expected to be a week before flood waters start to recede. It will then be some time before people can start to return to their homes.
“So it’s going to be the end of the month at least before people are even looking at what they’re facing, really,” she says.
HARD AT IT: Salvation Army volunteers help prepare food in an evacuation centre.
Thousands have been left homeless by the floods and damage to property and infrastructure has been estimated in the billions of dollars. Three people have so far been killed. Major-General Mick Slater, the man charged with leading the recovery efforts, has this week toured some of the affected areas.
Meanwhile, the National Council of Churches in Australia has released a statement expressing concern for those recently affected by the floods in Queensland and New South Wales, even as New South Wales braces itself for more heavy rain and possible floods.
“It is truly devastating to see flooding of this magnitude affecting so many towns first in NSW and now in Queensland,” Reverend Tara Curlewis, NCCA general secretary, said in the statement this week.
“On behalf of the NCCA I extend our care, support and sympathy to the thousands who are affected by these floods, those who have lost their homes or possessions and the farmers who have lost crops or livestock.”
“I hope that all Australians will pray for those who are suffering and for those who face the challenges of cleaning up when the water subsides. For all people affected by this disaster we are praying that families, businesses and communities will recover from quickly. I give thanks to God that the loss of life at this time has been small and do pray for those in mourning at this time. ”
The NCCA said it has been contacted by churches from across the globe expressing their concern and added that Australian churches would do “everything possible” to assist in the rebuilding of communities and in offering support to those affected.
The Australian Red Cross, which has flown in volunteers from across Australia to help staff evacuation centres, is offering a national registration system to allow people affected by the floods to let family and friends know they’re safe. To register, go to www.redcross.org.au.
Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal:
Phone 1800 219 028 or see www.qld.gov.au/floods/donate.html
The Salvation Army’s Flood Appeal:
Phone 137258 or see www.salvos.org.au.