Last week at this time we were all glued to the telly, horrified at what was happening in Queensland. After an unsually wet winter and spring, summer was also unseasonably wet. I don’t know how much rainfall they had in terms of millimetres but I do know that millimetres would not be the best way to measure it.
There were horrible stories of people swept away in their cars as the flood tore through towns unexpectedly like an inland tsunami. I thought that this description was a bit far-fetched until I saw a video someone had taken and it was jaw-dropping. There was just no way on earth people could outrun it or avoid it. There were tragic, heroic stories of people who gave up their chance of survival so that a sibling or child could have the place instead.
It was all so sad.
Then I saw another story of a man who was swept away in front of his wife and daughter. They thought there was no hope for him, the water had just engulfed him. He had managed to grab a tree further down the river and pulled himself out onto the bank. He scrambled up out of the path of the water and happened to meet a film crew who were recording the wild swelling of the river. They lent him a phone to call his wife. She was up on the roof, stranded and distraught at witnessing the loss of her husband. Seeing this gnarly Aussie bloke announce that he had survived was so emotional. The crew gave him a set of binoculars and he could see his wife up on the roof. I assume they arranged a rescue for her and their wee girl pretty sharpish!
So now a week on and everything there is covered in mud. YOU would think that the flood would be the worst part and indeed there can be nothing good about them, but going back to find your street covered in a thick, dark mud in which may or may not be your most prized possessions must just be soul-destroying. There was very little ability to move things to a safer place. A huge proportion of the houses are single storey and many of those were filled to the roof with water. I can’t imagine how horrible it must be to think that all your childhood photos, all the tiny clothes you saved from your baby’s first months, all the pictures your kids drew for you in primary school would now be disintegrating in a thick layer of silt.
But still the Aussies battle on. At the first possible opportunity there was a gridlock of cars trying to get to the affected towns and cities to help with the clean up. People who had struggled to get into work only to find their offices shut due to damage turned round, changed out of their business dress into overalls and went out to shovel mud for complete strangers.
There is a great Aussie word – mateship – it’s not just about friendship, it has more depth than that. The definition according to wikipedia is Mateship is an Australian cultural idiom that embodies equality, loyalty and friendship. There are two types of mateship, the inclusive and the exclusive; the inclusive is in relation to a shared situation (e.g., employment, sports, or hardship), whereas the exclusive type is toward a third party (e.g., a person that you have just met)
If ever there was a show of mateship, it has been in Queensland this week.