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A Senseless Death

It’s a tragedy.  The loss of a young life from a terrible, horrible accident.  I’m referring to the death last night of 17 year old, Isabelle Colman.  She was on Queensland’s, Gold Coast, celebrating the end of school in the annual “Schoolies” pilgrimage that thousands of school leavers do each year at this time.

Isabelle Colman – Image Source news.com.au

Isabelle died last night when she fell from the 26th floor of the Chevron Renaissance Hotel.  The details surrounding the fall are not yet known, though it is believed she was alone at the time.

Earlier in the week, another ‘schoolie’ was photographed sleeping on an 11th floor ledge on the Gold Coast.  Cameron Cox, 18, was also celebrating the end of school on the glitter strip.  He was lucky that he didn’t fall as he attempted to sleep off a drunken night of partying.

 

Cameron Cox sleeps on a high rise ledge – Image Source news.com.au

In October, there were three more deaths from balcony falls from Gold Coast high rises and another two deaths since May this year bringing the total deaths to six this year.

Not good news for the owners of the high rise hotels and apartments with a renewed push for balconies to be locked off, especially during schoolies week.

Hundreds of thousands of people holiday on the Gold Coast each year with no incident at all.  They rent the apartments and leave safely at the end of their holiday.  But now because of these incidents it is possible that you will not be able to open your balcony door if holidaying there.

While all of these deaths are tragic, the responsibility ultimately for their deaths, belongs to the person who has fallen.  They are the ones who have gone too close to the edge, or climbed over or whatever other reason.  Sure, some of them may have been dared (and shame on their friends for doing so) and some of them may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but that is a personal decision that that person has chosen to undertake.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am very, very sad about these deaths, particularly of last night’s with a beautiful girl whose life has ended so prematurely, but people need to understand that we are not bullet proof and we are able to be hurt and hurt easily and it can happen to anyone.  We are made of tissue and muscles and bones, all of which can be easily damaged.  If you lean too far over or are sky larking or whatever the reason which caused you to fall, it is your fault.  Don’t go changing laws because a very, very small number of people, push the boundaries too far.  And yes, Isabelle was only 17, which is still old enough to know better.

I hope her family and friends can move on with their lives quickly. I do not want to know such pain as they are feeling now.  It’s just so sad and a needless death.

It Was The Worst Of Times….

…but it was also the best of times.  The Great Flood of Queensland 2011.

How can anyone possibly say that anything to do with the flooding of Queensland during last summer can be described as being the best of times?  There was so much tragedy.  So much death.  So much destruction.  So many sad stories.

Yet there was also stories of inspiration.  Tales of heroism.  Examples of courage and resilience and bravery.  But most of all there was the famous Queensland spirit which was on show for all the world to see, and see it they did.

The news was dominated by the flooding of regional Queensland in towns such as Emerald, Dalby and Gympie. Unfortunately over the years, the flooding of regional Queensland towns was not a new experience. Weeks of solid rain and a torrential downpour unleashed a flash flood in the elevated town of Toowoomba which ultimately cost 21 people their lives when it went down stream and destroyed the small town of Grantham and others along the way.  The images of this flash flood, caught on the screens of amateur photographers were beamed around the world.  For all the wrong reasons, Queensland was the top news story on the planet.

Who can forget the story and heroism of 13 year old Jordan Rice? Caught in the flash flood with his mother and brother, this young boy, not able to swim, demanded his 10 year old brother be rescued first from the rapidly rising water surge coursing through the centre of Toowoomba.  A few seconds later, he and his mother were both dead after the car they were trapped in was inundated and flipped in the raging waters.  His brother was saved and will grow old knowing his brother gave his life for him.

Jordan became the human face of this tragedy caused by Mother Nature’s fury.

The night before the Grantham tragedy and with the rain continuing to fall, a call went out across the media and social networks for volunteers to help make sandbags at Brisbane City Council sites across the city.  People pulled on their gum boots and headed out in the pouring rain to assist.  Twitter was alive and active and there were people tweeting and retweeting vital information.  The community was in full swing and answering the call.

I was transfixed in front of the TV throughout this disaster which went on for days.  All of the networks had 24 hour coverage of the unfolding tragedy.  It was must watch TV.  Seeing how Queenslanders were reacting to the crisis made it even more the best of times.  The Wally Lewis statue at Suncorp Stadium now equipped with floaties, goggles and a snorkle.  People playing cricket on Coronation Drive, one of Brisbane’s busiest roads, in the middle of the day. Yes the Queensland humour and spirit was on show and it was badly needed.  Australian’s have a great way of laughing at ourselves and not taking life too seriously and it was light entertainment in a dark time.

I was inspired and proud of our rescue services.  They risked their own lives to save strangers.  Time and time again rescue helicopters flew over the fast moving waters in the Lockyer Valley, plucking stranded residents from the roofs of homes and cars.  Swift water rescue teams from the police, fire brigade and SES saved countless lives from raging torrents.  Their actions and selflessness and bravery and humility made me very proud of them.

As Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh delivered a speech capable of bringing a tear to a glass eye it brought us closer as a community.  No matter what your political persuasion was, it was hard not to be moved by her speech.

“As we weep for what we have lost, and as we grieve for family and friends and we confront the challenge that is before us, I want us to remember who we are. We are Queenslanders. We’re the people that they breed tough, north of the border. We’re the ones that they knock down, and we get up again.” Anna Bligh.

After the water receded came the best part of all.  The mud army mobilised.  Volunteers from around the state kicked into action.  Armed with shovels, mops, buckets and a cheery attitude, they got to work and drove into the carnage and began to clean up the mess and sludge and rubbish.

It made me proud to be a Queenslander.

It made us all proud to be a Queenslander.  I suspect that even non Queenslanders, watching from a far wished they were Queenslanders.

Then TC Yasi came to town.  Well not Brisbane town, but our cousins up in North Queensland.  Tropical Cyclone Yasi was a mean bitch.  A category 5 system with winds able to inflict major damage and cause damage she did.

The media that had set up camp in Brisbane for the floods had packed up and headed north to cover the imminent disaster there.  Some brave journalists locked down with locals in community halls as the giant storm powered over head.  They were the first on the scene as a new day dawned, broadcasting images of widespread damage to homes and buildings and crops.

But yet that Queensland spirit wasn’t broken.  Who can forget this sign outside a NQ Hogs Breath Cafe.  This is the Queensland spirit which saw us through this terrible period.

And here we are 12 months later.  The clean up continues.  Homes are still being rebuilt.  We remember those who died and pause and reflect on the sad and tragic loss of life. For those taken before their time.

I hope that people drew inspiration from the Great Flood of 2011.  I hope that when times get tough, that they look back at this time and see the courage of many.  They recall the heroism of people young and old, friends and strangers. That they remember that Queenslanders never give up and no matter the odds, no matter the trials and tribulations before them, that there is a spirit within this state and of course this great country of Australia, which is unbreakable, even in the face of adversity and struggle.

I hope, that like me, others are also remembering how Queensland united 12 months ago.  I hope they also remember that in the midst of disaster, that the worst of times was also the best of times, when that famous Queensland spirit was on display and it is that spirit which is still with us today.

For my post about the Floods as it happened last year, click here.

Floodageddon 2011 – Through Jack’s Eyes

As I write this post, over 28,000 homes in South East Queensland have been severely damaged or destroyed in the worst flooding to take place in Queensland in over 30 years.  In fact, over 75% of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone. To put this in perspective for my northern hemisphere mates, that is the size of Texas in the United States or the combined size of Germany and France.  That’s a whole lotta area, under water.

That’s all I will write about the actual problem.  Queensland flooded and flooded in a bloody major way.  It’s like someone forgot to turn off the world’s biggest shower and 3 months later realised it but by that time, the bath was full and the water was flowing over the sides and flooding the entire bathroom.

Yep, stupid analogy but you get the gist.  It rained a lot and it kept on raining.

You’ve all seen the footage and seen the news and read the papers and online about what happened in the South East corner of Queensland which has so far claimed 20 lives, not including those who died in December in the central parts of Queensland.

No, what I want to write about in this post is my own personal experience.  Of what I have felt and seen and witnessed since 10th January.  My story is an easy one.  I am nowhere near the Brisbane River or the Bremer River in Ipswich.  I am a couple of hours away from the Lockyer Valley region decimated by the Toowoomba inland tsunami.  I know only one person who came close to having their house flooded and he avoided that by living on the second floor of an apartment building in West End.  I have suffered no loss and no one I know has suffered or loss either.

So why do I even care?

Well I hope that question will be answered in the following words.  Join me, won’t you?

Along with millions of other Aussies, I watched the devastation of the floods in central Queensland.  Towns I have visited such as Emerald, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, were all being inundated by a brown, liquid monster.  We looked on as our country brothers and sisters dealt with the disaster the way we know Queenslanders do.  With humour and good grace.  Images of people, always blokes actually, walking waist deep in water with the pub slowly receding behind them and a carton of beer on their shoulder and a smile on their face was common.  A pub with a hastily built dirt levee built around it and renamed the Flotel instead of Hotel.  Kids on esky lids swimming in crocodile and snake infested waters without a care in the world.  Humour is a big part of our society and we would need to call on it many times to get through the days and weeks ahead.

Queenslanders love their beer and so of course you save the pub before saving the schools! It doesn’t matter if the school goes under anyway. It’s the school holidays and there’ll be plenty of time to dry it out and get it up and running again before school resumes.  But we must not run out of beer!  This is a crisis and the only good way of handling a crisis is by looking at it head on – through the bottom of a brown stubbie that is!  That’s Queensland and we wouldn’t change it for anything.

Yes it is fair to say that Queenslanders handle things with a relaxed attitude but don’t let that fool you.  The job still gets done.

Not understating it but there were thousands of people displaced and evacuated.  Hundreds of homes and businesses were flooded and after weeks of vision on the news and websites and newspapers, Channel 9 decided to hold a telethon to raise money for the regional centres of Queensland.  It was hastily arranged and broadcast live from Brisbane’s Southbank Piazza on Sunday, January 9.  The piazza is open air to a certain degree and the millions of viewers across Australia could see the monsoonal rain that was continually pelting down over Brisbane as entertainers such as David Campbell and Tina Area sang their hearts out.  I am sure the sight of this never ending curtain of rain contributed to the telethon raising over $10 million that night alone but no one knew that night, that the following afternoon would see a terrifying flash flood hit the towns of Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley towns of Murphy’s Creek and Grantham which would claim at least 18 lives.

This wall of water which destroyed whatever was in its path was still speeding down the range and Ipswich and Brisbane were in its way.  With the Wivenhoe Dam, built to prevent Brisbane from flooding as badly as it did in 1974, releasing two Sydney Harbours worth of water daily to avoid it collapsing and joining together with the water from the flash flooding in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Ipswich and all suburbs in between were about to get wet.  Very wet.

Then the call went out for volunteers to help the council and SES fill sand bags.  A lot of them!  On the Tuesday night, it was still pissing down in Brisbane.  It hadn’t let up and by this stage the governments had advised that low lying areas of Brisbane were going to flood and we were warned that the devastating floods of 1974 were nothing compared to what we were going to see in the coming days.

One of the many sangbag volunteers. Here is Erin Louise Tate from Brisbane’s Southside getting ready to volunteer. @erinlouisetate via Twitter

I love Twitter.  People knock it for whatever reason and they can but a call went out across Twitter (as well as other mainstream media) on that Tuesday night and boy didn’t the people respond.  People who I follow on Twitter, who I have never met but legends still the same started to head out into the rain and the dark of the night to fill up sandbags.  People were heading out at 10pm to lend a hand.  Let me make a comment too that these people were in no danger of their houses being flooded, so they weren’t making sandbags for themselves but for total strangers!  My wife was not home that night so I couldn’t head out but I was on the Twitter #qldfloods feed trying to send out as much information as possible.  What else could I do?  I felt a strong desire to help.   Earlier that day I was out and about and had my journey north to Morayfield interrupted by rising flood waters in Burpengary.

Another flooded road which is damaged at Burpengary. Flood waters at Burpengary. Photo by Jack McClane.

So while watching the news and my Twitter time line I saw the volunteer army that was about to take over SEQ takes its first steps.  I was about to say, first, tentative steps, but it wasn’t tentative.  It was absolute.  It was brilliant and I felt a sense of pride in my fellow Queenslanders that was only going to multiply over the coming days.

I updated my blog to try and centralise the mammoth amount of information that was out there.  Information on how and where to donate, road closure links, emergency services links, how to volunteer etc as well as links to videos and some photos as well to show the people of the world what Queensland was up against.  It was only a small thing but if one person got the relevant info from it and if someone else donated because of it, then good, it did its job!

Wednesday came around and residents in the low lying areas were still packing up their houses as quickly as they could and get their possessions to higher ground.  Sandbag volunteers were still in full force throughout the day and the media kept us up to date with what was happening in Ipswich as the Bremer River neared its peak of 20 metres.

The Brisbane River peak was coming Thursday morning at 4am.  So predawn, the morning news shows fired up their cameras and lights and went to air with the on air guys such as Channel 9’s Karl Stefanovic, himself a Queenslander, crossing to reporters at places where the water was already overflowing the banks of the river.  The river didn’t hit the predicted peak but still thousands of homes and businesses had been destroyed.

Then we saw an image of a 300 metre, 1,000 tonne section of the famous Brisbane Riverwalk which had broken free, floating down the river towards the 12 lane Gateway Bridge. Well the Sir Leo Hielsher Bridge to be accurate but the newly renamed bridge was back to its former moniker for the duration of this crisis.  The Riverwalk was travelling at a very fast speed and who knows if it would have caused any real damage to the bridge but one man and his tugboat didn’t want to take that risk.  While listening to his radio and hearing of the runaway piece of Riverwalk, Tugboat skipper, Doug Hislop and the smallest tugboat I have ever seen called Mavis, headed out into the fast moving Brisbane River just in time to manoeuvre the Riverwalk into a parallel position and guide it through the massive pylons of the Gateway Bridge and to safety at the mouth of the river.  Doug and Mavis gained instant fame and hopefully fortune and a new hero was unearthed.  In his interviews afterwards he was very humble and said that he just did what anyone would do.  I thought that Doug must have been on standby with orders from the government to intercept anything that could be considered dangerous.  He wasn’t.  He just stepped up when he was needed and joined the long list of volunteers that Queensland has seen over the few weeks.

The waters started to recede.  Brisbane had been spared the consequences of a peak equal to or higher than the disastrous 1974 floods.  While thousands were affected, many more thousands were spared.

But still people needed help.  A lot of help.

With the receding water levels, the images started to emerge from the murky brown water.  We at home, and when I say we, I mean all viewers, were shown images of houses completely devastated.  Water had gone over the roofs of many homes and to the ceilings and beyond in most others.  Whatever the water touched, it destroyed.  These poor, poor people. Most are uninsured because most insurance companies will not cover for flood damage, were re-entering their homes to find nothing left.

The clean up was going to take a huge effort.  The army was called in by the federal government but a bigger army formed.  The volunteers!  50,000 of them registered online to assist.  Many more just hit the gridlocked streets to lend a hand.  That Friday afternoon I asked my twelve year old daughter, Michaela, or Mick as I like to call her, if she wanted to help out on Saturday.  Before the words were out of my mouth she said yes.

Saturday morning we prepared for a hard day’s work.  We went to Bunnings to get some supplies.  Top of the list was gum boots.  Driving into the carpark I saw an awesome sight.  People!  Everywhere!  Bunnings is normally always busy but this was nuts.  People were walking out of there with gumboots in hand.  Brooms, shovels, gurneys, scrub brushes.  There was the usual sausage sizzle and it was doing a roaring trade.  The sign on the BBQ said that all proceeds were going to the flood appeal.  We quickly found what we needed and headed to the checkout spending about $100 on what we needed knowing that I would have spent double that if I had to.

A mate of mine, Mark was organising a BBQ in Graceville and asked me to assist with getting some bread rolls.  Working for Bakers Delight I was able to quickly get a stack of bread rolls donated.  Thanks to Bakers Delight at Windsor and Aspley for the kind donation.  We picked up the Aspley ones and headed to the western suburbs of Brisbane.  This area of Brisbane is my old stomping grounds.  I grew up in Toowong and I know the back streets. We’re taking the back streets because the radio is advising us that the roads are packed.  They’re packed not only because of the volunteers and general commuters but also because of the bloody rubber neckers or flood tourists as I called, them heading into the flood zone to take some pictures to put on Facebook and to tell their grandkids that they were there for the great flood of 2011.  Idiots.

Mark rang me and said he was almost out of sausages and could I get some more.  We made our way to Woolies at Toowong and bought all of the snags we could – about 88 – and a slab of bottled water and some ice and proceeded on the journey.  Taking more back streets after seeing the gridlock we eventually couldn’t avoid the congestion as the tiny bridge that links Chelmer to Indooroopilly, the Walter Taylor Bridge, was struggling to cope with the volume of cars.

We couldn’t go the way I wanted into Graceville thanks to a couple of police roadblocks but eventually I found a way in and after explaining to another police officer that I was in fact there to help and not a rubber necker he waved us through.

A typical scene in flood ravaged Graceville. Photo by Jack McClane

That’s when we saw the destruction for the first time with our own eyes.  By this stage we had been on the road for about 3 hours and it was near 1pm.  A lot of work had happened.  The kerb was full of rubbish.  Well rubbish now.  Prized possessions a few days earlier.  It was stacked so high and as a wide as each house.  It was endless.  Then I saw a sight which filled me with so much pride.  The street, a normal suburban street was a hive of activity.  There were people everywhere.  Covered in mud and yuk.

We drove up the street and found Mark.  We dropped off the supplies. Our original plan was to drop and run and head to Goodna, one of the worst affected areas but the struggle it took to get into this flood zone was enough for us, so we parked and donned our gum boots and gloves and with buckets and spades and brooms and sponges we set foot down the road to help where we could.  We went house to house and asked if they needed a hand.  Each house said no thanks, we have all the help we need.  I shit you not, each house had heaps of people in them.  They weren’t kidding, they did have all the help they needed.  One man told us to go and find an elderly gentleman who kept on walking past with a wheel barrow full of rubbish.  He wasn’t sure where he lived but it appeared that he was doing plenty of hard yakka on his own.  We searched for him but couldn’t find him so we eventually returned back to the BBQ area and it was there that a dump truck turned up and we just started loading it with the debris on the side of the roads.  There must have been twenty people loading those trucks each time.  A truck would pull up and get filled and leave.  No one was in charge.  No one needed to be.  Everybody knew what they had to do.  We got filthy dirty and we tried to be careful not to scratch ourselves.  We avoided the nails hammered into now unrecognisable pieces of furniture.  We picked up big pieces and small pieces.  Everything went into the truck.  There was no discrimination there in the streets of Graceville.  Everything was destroyed.

This one bloke, Joe, was up in the back of the truck pulling the rubbish into it as the people below lifted it to his position.  The truck filled quickly and Joe, with his long straggly hair caked in mud and sweat just kept on lifting heavy objects into place.  At one stage he slipped and his side went thundering into the side of the dump truck.  You could tell that it hurt him. He grimaced in pain. I was sure he had cracked a rib such was the force of the fall.  He gave it a rub, took a deep breath and got back to it.  Later on while waiting for another truck, Joe came over and got an ice cold can of coke from Mark and I asked him if he was ok.  He said he was but I doubted it.  I asked him which house was his.  He said none of them.  I asked him if he knew anyone in the street.  He said he didn’t.  He said he just couldn’t watch anymore of it from home and that he had to do something.  His wife was watching the kids and he came here to help out.  Like so many others.  He was willing to crack a rib for total strangers.  He wouldn’t have cared if he did.  None of us would have if we were hurt.  A cracked rib is nothing compared to those who lost their lives in this flood or the loss of treasured possessions.

We helped load debris into the back of trucks. Photo by Jack McClane

Mick and I went for a walk around the corner and we found ourselves next to the river.  We were that close.  We saw many people working in their homes.  Using hoses and gurneys and brooms to get rid of the muck. This one guy was sitting out the front of his house gently cleaning old number plates which a few days earlier, probably adorned his garage wall.  It seemed strange to me at the time that his efforts were being utilised on a mundane item but then I realised that while it was a mundane item to me, it meant the world to him and that is all that matters.

People everywhere were doing the best they could to clean up.  There is no instruction manual or pamphlet to tell you what to do and what order to do it in after a flood.  There also didn’t need to be.  Judging by what we were seeing, people were getting the job done.  It didn’t matter if they started with the smaller stuff first.  If that is what it took them to get the job done, then so be it.

We came across an army roadblock.  There was a group of soldiers clearing a shitload of mud off the road to try and reopen it.  There were about four cars waiting to get through.  They wouldn’t for a while.  I heard one of the soldiers tell one of the other soldiers that a couple of girls a couple of houses up and made them an offer.  If the soldiers washed their cars for them they could also wash their boobs!  It made me laugh.  There was that Queensland spirit.  Even in times of crisis, the chicks just love the Aussie soldiers and they were cracking jokes about it.  I was about to ask which house and was getting myself into car cleaning mode when I remembered that Michaela was with me still.  Bugger!  I’m kidding!

The Army was called into service and assisted with removing debris in their Unimog’s. Photo by Jack McClane

I asked the soldier how long the road block was going to be in place.  He said he didn’t know. So I told him I would tell the now considerable long line of cars that it was closed off.  So we started walking back to our position and I told each car to do a Ubolt.  There were no complaints other than one dickhead who argued with another army jeep that pulled up alongside him.  I said to the guy that it wasn’t their fault and we continued to walk back and tell each car.  There were probably 20 cars that went back in the direction in which they had just come.  No probs.

During this walk we also came across many different volunteers who approached us and asked us if we would like a sandwich or a cold drink or a biscuit.  It was incredible the amount of people who were offering food.  We declined each time as we had brought our own food and drinks and the stuff they had was better suited to all of the other volunteers.  It’s strange, even though we had worked hard as well, I didn’t feel like I was a volunteer.  I wasn’t a victim.  I was just me and that people who really needed that stuff were inside their homes doing it tough.

Mark and Annette fed the masses all day. You can see a destroyed Convenience store behind with the sludge and mud all over the front area. Photo by Jack McClane

Mark who had a smile on his face all day while feeding hungry volunteers had set up the BBQ with his beautiful girlfriend, Annette.  Their spirits were high, even being out in the hot, humid sun and as another volunteer or helper walked past, they offered them a sanga on bread or an ice cold drink.  They had coke and lemonade and water and juice and poppers.  They catered for everyone.  They also had sunscreen and hand disinfectant so that people could wash their hands and kill off the germs before eating.  They thought of everything.

Next to their car I noticed a whole heap of supplies including toilet paper, tissues, long life milk and assorted tinned foods.  It turned out that the council had dropped off these essential supplies so that residents could take some if they were needed.  I thought how good was that!  The different governments involved in this crisis, being the federal, state and local had performed brilliantly throughout this whole crisis.  The information was unbelievable and the fact that council had organised for these emergency supplies to be made available was unreal.  As it turned out no one really wanted the supplies as most people were not staying in their homes.  Most of the homes were unliveable and therefore these items would just be sitting in empty homes.  Annette had a great idea to make up some care packages and hand them out.  So we did and with the last few we loaded them into my car for when we were leaving and found some people who would take them down the street.  Michaela handed them out with so much empathy.  I am so proud of Michaela as well.  She didn’t hesitate to volunteer when I asked her and during the cleanup she turned to me and said, “Dad I am so happy I came.  I feel like I am helping”.  She was helping and doing a bloody good job too!  She’s only 12 but she showed that kids of today care about their world and their neighbours.  She asked if we could come back and volunteer as well.  What a special kid she is.  I thought she would get a valuable life lesson from this and that is why I asked her.  She’ll never forget and I am sure it will make her an even better person, if that is at all possible!

Michaela delivers a care package to a local resident. Photo by Jack McClane

There are so many sad stories in that street alone.  One resident was telling me that he had no insurance and that he lost everything.  Luckily he was only renting but as his lease was almost up he would not be returning.  He was upbeat and positive and would just get on with starting again.  Similar stories were being told up and down that area.  There were no tears or arguments.  In fact it was just the opposite.  There was plenty of laughter.  People were upbeat.  There was an air of confidence in the street.  Yes they were down but they weren’t out.  They would start again.  They would rebuild.

I mentioned earlier that the governments have been terrific in this crisis.  During the height of it, Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh conducted bi-hourly press conferences to keep the public informed.  Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman was front and centre with shirt rolled up to his elbows, not a tie in sight, and informed the people of exactly what was coming.  Our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard nodded and agreed with what was being said and promised to provide money where needed but she really didn’t have much to offer as the lower levels of government did that job superbly.  Only a few short weeks ago Anna Bligh was on a hiding to nothing and would likely lose the next state government election.  Now she is Superwoman and infallible in the eyes of the Queensland public and while I am no fan of hers, she has been bloody brilliant.  At one stage in a press conference she stood before the cameras and the journalists to give another update and to inform us of another confirmed death. She said while holding back tears:

“As we weep for what we have lost, and as we grieve for family and friends and we confront the challenge that is before us, I want us to remember who we are.  We are Queenslanders. We’re the people that they breed tough, north of the border. We’re the ones that they knock down, and we get up again.”

I had a lump in my throat and held back the tears.  She was 100% right.  We are Queenslanders and we are tough.  What a speech to say to her people who have relied on our leader to LEAD and she has done that in spades.  Congrats to Mrs Bligh.  Unlike your namesake, you will not be the subject of a mutiny and I hope that when the finger pointing undoubtedly starts, that people will realise that this was an act of nature and that the government isn’t to blame.  I know there are people who will argue that Wivenhoe should have been released earlier and I am sure the inquiry will determine whether that is what should have happened or not but if it was, the fault is in procedure but not in a person or people.

I am so proud to be a Queenslander!  I wasn’t born here but moved here from Adelaide when I was seven in 1979.  I’ve been here long enough to call myself a Queenslander and I am damn proud to do so.  I have welled up plenty of times over this last week or so.  When I saw people like Erin, volunteer to go out into the rain and fill sandbags was one time.  Another was seeing the long lines of volunteers at the Brisbane City Council registration points, ready to go into battle to fight for Queenslanders. I’ve welled up seeing images of people sandbagging and helping each other out.  I cried when I saw a sign some young girls were holding at the T20 cricket match at the MCG last week saying “We are with you QLD” even as flood waters began to encroach into Victoria.  I welled up when I saw a couple in Brisbane CBD, the day after the peak had damaged inner city businesses, they were walking down the street, covered in mud but walking hand in hand.  Despite the damage to their business, they still had each other.  It was a beautiful moment but one I wished had never had to happen.

An exhausted couple, walk hand in hand in Brisbane’s CBD during the clean up. Photo by Jack McClane

Yes, there is a spirit in Queensland.  I can’t quite tell you what it is.  It is something you need to experience yourself.  As our mighty State of Origin team has shown over the past 30 years, you can never write off a Queenslander.  And when Billy Moore proudly called out that iconic call of ‘Queenslander’ during a State of Origin match in 1995, a new rally cry was born and when Queenslanders are down and fighting, just hearing that yelled out will add strength to any given situation.  I am proud to say I have heard that call a few times this last couple of weeks and every time I do, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I know that everything will be ok.

We still need plenty of help. There is still work to do.  Please continue to talk about it and donate and volunteer where possible.  I still have the information on my blog and you can access that here.

I want to thank Australia for giving a damn about Queensland.  Seeing my great country pull together has been awe inspiring.  We certainly do live in the lucky country!  I also want to point out the great work that the QLD Police Service has done providing timely information to the citizens of this great state.  Their Facebook page is great and the inclusion of their Flood Mythbusters has been invaluable to quash rumours and not cause a panic.  Of course a special thanks to the SES and emergency services who risk their lives to save ours.  Well done.  And of course to the many volunteers either directly in the flood zones or in the many evacuation centres or those who are baking or cooking or behind the keyboard sending out vital information via social networks like Twitter and Facebook.  A special mention to @meshel_laurie who has been an awesome provider of information.  She wasn’t the only with so many of the Twitterati pitching in. I won’t mention you individually because I don’t want to offend anyone by leaving them out.  You know who you are and a job well done.

Normally the media need to sensationalise to make a story more interesting than it actually is.  This story was so big that for once they didn’t need to invent stories.  I think the media reported this story brilliantly.  Most of the networks had rolling coverage throughout the day and night.  They did a great job.  Well done to the media for once, telling it as it had to be told.  Truthfully!

As I finalise this post, the time is 9.40pm, Thursday, 20 January 2011 and it is absolutely bucketing down outside.  With a king tide due tomorrow there is more risk of flash flooding.  Mother Nature can be a total bitch sometimes as she has demonstrated in Queensland over the past couple of months.  She can destroy homes and property and roads and buildings and cars and trucks.  She can come screaming towards you with nothing but destruction in her eye but there is one thing she cannot take and that is the resilience and the strength and the attitude of Queenslanders and Aussies alike.

Queenslander!

p.s.  The fundraising continues.  With a damage bill likely to top over $30 billion we need all we can get.  There are plenty of celebrity auctions on and every street corner has a fundraiser going.  The Barnes family have released an album on iTunes call Floodlight for only $4.99 and you can also buy “Love You Queensland” for $1.69 at iTunes.  It’s a great song, re-recorded just for this occassion.  Check it out.  Those goosebumps are back!

UPDATE:  12 months later, I wrote again about the floods and the now famous, Queensland spirit. I hope you enjoy it. Click here to read it.

Floodageddon 2011

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The following information is supplied by myself as a one stop shop for information.  It is correct at the time of publishing but please do not rely on this info fully.  It is intended as a guide only.  Please refer to official channels such as the Queensland Police Service Facebook page which is listed below for more accurate and up to date information.

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Queensland is facing its worse ever natural disaster as flooding causes wide spread havoc which is affecting most of the state.

The Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh has launched the Queensland Premiers Flood Relief Appeal to help raise funds for Queenslanders, many of whom do not have flood insurance.

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Here is how you can donate:

Donate at any QLD branch of:

Bank Of QLD

Commonwealth Bank

NAB

Westpac

ANZ

Suncorp

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or donate online here

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or call 1800 219 028 and use your credit card

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or donate at Coles or Woolworths Supermarkets at the cash registers

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You can also make a direct EFT payment

Account Name: Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal
BSB: 064 013
Account number: 1000 6800

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If you wish to volunteer to assist people in their time of need, you can do so by registering your interest here

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Friends and Relatives can call 1300 993 191 for info on missing loved ones

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The number for the State Emergency Service is 132500

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Follow the QLD Police Service on Facebook  for up to date information here

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The Brisbane City Council site shows road closures due to floods here

Moreton Bay Regional Council road closures here

Logan City Council road closures here

Redland Council road closures here

Gold Coast City Council road closures here

Sunshine Coast Regional Council road closures and other info here

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Brisbane City Secondary Flood Maps click here or if that page is down the archive is here

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Click here to for general information.

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For those with hearing difficulties here is special video for you.

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Sandbags are available (at time of inputting):

  • Guyatt Park, Bryce Street, St Lucia
  • Botticelli Street Park, Botticelli Street, Fig Tree Pocket
  • Hawthorne Park, Cnr Park and Oak Street, East Brisbane
  • Perrin Park, Josling St, Taringa
  • Darra Works Depot, Shamrock Rd, Darra
  • Morningside Works Depot, Redfern Street, Morningside
  • Newmarket SES Depot, Wilston Rd, Newmarket (in carpark off Erneton Street)
  • Zillmere Works Depot, Jennings Street, Zillmere
  • Stafford Works Depot, Turner Road, Kedron

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QLD Health Disaster Management Plan is available here

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I’ll add more info as I get it.

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Please be safe everybody.

Videos showing the floods:

This shows the force of the flash flood in Toowoomba

A rescue in Toowoomba

A river of cars in this 5 mins of footage in Toowoomba

The water is gone in Toowoomba and this one example of the destruction

This is where the cars ended up from the flash flood in Toowoomba

A tour of the flooded streets of Brisbane at boat level

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Some pictures of the devastating floods taken by me or credited to others.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you have a video or photo you want posted here, please email me jack.mcclane@bigpond.com


State of Origin in 3D

On Wednesday night, 681,000 people tuned in from within Queensland to watch the mighty XXXX Maroons win an unprecedented 5th straight series win and the first 3-0 clean sweep since 1995.  In addition to these 681,000 people, there was another couple of thousand watching this sporting spectacle in 3D at a number of cinemas around the state.

I was one of them.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure that 3D TV’s would be anything but a gimmick.  I had recently seen a number of movies in 3D at the cinema including Toy Story 1 and 2 and Shrek 4.  Great movies but not really 3D worthy.  The old 3D movies of yesteryear when you would duck when something came at you from the screen are no more so what could 3D sport possibly add?

I went to State of Origin 2 at Suncorp Stadium and outside the stadium, I think it was Sony who had set up a 3D booth allowing people to watch some 3D action on the televisions wearing the special powered 3D goggles.  So I decided to sit down and watch a few minutes and what I saw delivered a massive WOW factor.  It was a game of American Football being shown and I was blown away.  Wow indeed.  What a difference.  I felt like I was there, in row B watching the touchdown in real time.  It was amazing.

So when I found out that my local Event Cinema at Chermside was showing State of Origin 3 live and in 3D in the VMax theatre I organised for a couple of mates and I to watch the game there.  The tickets were $20 each plus $1 for the glasses.  A little bit more than a movie showing in the same cinema but a lot more expensive than the $0 it would cost to watch the game at home on free to air television, albeit on a 2D screen.  But I have a 50” Panasonic HD Plasma with surround sound so I still get a great view and when watching it on HD the image quality is fantastic.

But for 20 bucks I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew it would be totally different to watching it from home, so for me, it was money well spent….at this stage.  I was curious as to whether or not the people in the crowd would sit quietly or would they cheer and holler and yell abuse at the referee’s just like they would if they were really there at the game or in the comfort of their own home.  Would they stand for and sing the national anthem? These answers would be forthcoming in a few short minutes.  For my American readers, this might seem a bit strange to you as from my understanding, when in the cinemas in America there is plenty of cheering and clapping etc just in normal movies and singing and dancing in musicals.  In Australia we are quiet relaxed and sit quietly throughout the movie with only laughter at the funny bits and the continual rustle of paper bags and munching on potato chips and popcorn and the slurping of drinks.

So I met my mates there and we had a feed before going in.  Hotdogs of course, what else do you eat at the footy!  Actually I lie.  I had a kebab but I imagined it was a hotdog!

The first thing which was different about this night was the 2 Bronco’s cheerleaders who greeted us in the theatre.  That’s a first for me.  Having two scantily dressed absolute stunners with pom poms standing in the near dark welcoming you is a plus for me.

We took our seats which were unfortunately about 6 rows from the front and to the left.  It was essentially booked out by the time I bought the tickets so bad luck there.  When at the cinema to watch movies I generally sit in the back row or as close to the back row as possible. So comfy seats but not in the best location.

We were there ready for the pre match intro’s from the Channel 9 commentary team and while not broadcast in 3D we had to wear the 3D glasses to watch it.  Then the teams came running out onto the field.  Queensland ran out first led by our legendary captain, Darren Lockyer.  The 3D camera was placed at the end of an honour guard of little kids with their little hands outstretched in eager anticipation of touching their hero’s hands as they ran onto the field.  Uh oh, someone forgot to tell Lockyer who quickly turned left out of the tunnel and not through the awaiting sets of hands.  Those poor little kids.  In Lockyer’s defence they were all wearing blue and Lockyer probably thought they were there for the New South Wales team.   The rest of the Queensland team quickly followed Lockyers direction and also missed the honour guard except for Jonathan Thurston who went through with arms outstretched and made the kids day.

Then the NSW side came out and did run through the honour guard and at this point, with the camera now back at ground level we were nearly knocked out by a few flying knees thanks to the 3D angle.  Sweet!

The ground announcer then asks for everyone to stand for the Australian National Anthem.  No one in front of me stood up and I had quick look backwards and only 1 guy in the whole cinema was standing.  I felt embarrassed for him but then felt embarrassed for myself for not also standing but by this stage the anthem had begun so I decided to keep my seat.  However, I did sing along as I always do.

At the conclusion of the anthem the ground announcer then asked for a minutes silence in honour of the 3 Aussie diggers killed in Afghanistan a couple of weeks earlier.  Again nobody stood in the cinema but the moments silence was honoured.

So with the festivities over it’s time for kick off!  Uh oh, we have a problem.  Something has happened to the vision and the cinema quickly tries to rectify the error obviously caused when someone has turned on the kettle to make the coffee!  Unbelievable!  30 minutes of prematch with no real dramas and then right on kick off the screen goes black!  The crowd lets out a sigh as the first tackle in State of Origin is generally a big one and is well anticipated.  We missed it.

Then when the screen did return we were in like a 5th dimension.  It was difficult to watch.  Not 2D and not 3D but something all together different. After a few minutes of uncomfortable watching someone called out from within the crowd ‘turn your glasses upside down’.  So we did and everything came back into focus.  So for the first half we all looked like idiots wearing our 3D glasses upside down!  But at least the images were correct again.  This problem was rectified at half time and we were able to look (semi) normal again.

One thing which was weird about this broadcast was that all of the camera angles I was use to when watching rugby league were different.  Sometimes a ball kicked from the 30 looked like it was kicked from half way and when the ball was kicked it looked like it went a lot further than normal.  The lines across the field indicating different 10 metre zones looked longer than 10 metres as well.  So it took some time getting use to the new angles and distances.

The second half was an epic game of rugby league with the lead changing a couple of times.  The atmosphere in the cinema was electric and high 5’s aplenty were being thrown around when Queensland finally killed off NSW in the dying minutes.

The images on the cinema screen were different to what I saw on the Sony 3D TV a few weeks earlier. They weren’t as crisp or as 3D as I expected so don’t make a decision to buy a 3D TV based on what you see at the cinema.

So was it worth it?  Absolutely.  Despite a couple of technical hiccups, it was a fun night but next time I will get my usual seat at the back and centred.

I wonder if the AFL grand final will be broadcast at the cinema.  I might just be back there on the last day Saturday in September.

This is the video I took of my mates and I singing the national anthem at State of Origin 2 at Suncorp Stadium.  I guess it is a bit different to singing it in a cinema.  The bloke is Lloyd and the chick is Amina!  Great people both.

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My Top 5 State of Origin Memories

30 years after the inaugural State of Origin game was played in Brisbane between Queensland and New South Wales, the battle resumed tonight when Queensland descended into enemy territory to take on New South Wales at ANZ Stadium.

State of Origin is a great time of year when everybody is talking about it.  There is no middle ground and if you aren’t a rugby league fan there is no hiding from it.

In commemoration of the 30th anniversary here are my Top 5 Origin Memories.

5. Gorden Tallis Tackle

It was Game 3, 2002 at the Sydney Football Stadium. This match ended in an 18 all draw but it isn’t this result which stands out to me. It was a tackle in the 15th minute that was quite unlike any other I had ever seen. While Rugby League is known for the big hits this tackle by Gorden Tallis on NSW Fullback, Brett Hodgson was quite unique. Returning the ball from a Darren Lockyer down the field kick, Hodgson had stepped Tallis at the 35 metre mark and about 17 metres in from the touch-line when Tallis has stuck out a hand and grabbed Hodgson by the back of the jersey and then has slung him towards the touch-line and seconds later bundled the bewildered Hodgson into touch. It was an amazing tackle and is my all time favourite tackle.

4. It’s On – Fight Club

Origin football is known for a bit of biffo and here are a couple of my favourites.

3. Alfie back from England

The series was level at 1 all heading into game 3.  Queensland had been thumped in game 2, 26-8 and looked nothing like the team that won game 1, 34-16.  Queensland’s prodigal son, Allan Langer who was in his second season at Warrington in the English Super League arrived to wear the famous number 7 jersey.  He played an awesome game that night and set up try after try before scoring one himself.  It was an inspirational home coming for the little legend.  Queensland went on to win the game, 40-14 and win the series.

2. Another Queensland try from the death

It was Game 1, 1998 at the Sydney Football Stadium. QLD were down and out trailing by 5 points with a minute left to play and deep inside their own territory. Kevin Walters kicks deep down field on the first tackle and the ball is regathered by Ben Ikin. NSW regroup in defence but 2 tackles later, Tonie Carroll is sent over the try line from a pass from Walters. Lockyer converts after the siren for a memorable QLD win.

1. That’s not a try, that’s a miracle!

It was Game 1, 1994. QLD were down and out trailing by 8 points with 5 minutes left to play and deep inside their own territory at the Sydney Football Stadium. Willie Carne scored a try and with a successful Meninga conversion, QLD trailed by 2 points. With a minute left to go, one of the greatest try’s in rugby league history unfolded. Starting with Langer the ball then went through the hands of Walters, Carne, Renouf, Hancock, Smith, Langer again and then onto Meninga who threw the final pass to Mark Coyne who scored sliding over the try line. Commentator Ray Warren calledthe match and he famously said, “That’s not a try, that’s a miracle!” Indeed it was and it is also my favourite try of all time.

I love Origin!  Well done to Queensland for winning tonight, 28-24 in Game 1 of the 2010 series.

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What are some of your favourite origin moments?
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Driving Me Nuts

Yesterday, the bride and the prides and I went to Seaworld on Queensland’s amazing Gold Coast.  We live north of Brisbane so it is approx 100km away, of which 95% of the road is a freeway, so it takes a little over an hour to get there.  It was the most uncomfortable hour of driving I have had in a long time.

It was one of those days when it wasn’t overly busy on the road.  Sure, there were a lot of cars but we were by no means in a carpark.  The speed limit for the first half hour of our journey is 100 km/h before increasing to 110 km/h.  When all drivers obey the speed limit then the traffic flows well and you generally end up at your destination without incident.

Yesterday was different.

Once we were on the Pacific Motorway it starts at 3 lanes and then turns into 4 lanes.  The road rule in Australia – remember we drive on the left – is to keep left unless overtaking. This means that if you are a slow arse driver then stick to the two left hand lanes and leave the right lanes free and unobstructed.  Now this wouldn’t be a problem if everyone stuck exactly to the speed limit but as you all know, cars don’t always follow the road rules and sometimes this isn’t the fault of the driver but the car itself.

Example – If you have five cars and each were side by side taking off from a start line steadily increasing speed until they hit 100 km/h on their speedometer, it would quickly become obvious that each of those 5 cars were doing a different speed.  Each manufacturer is different and variables such as tyre size and air pressure to dodgy components means that the actual speed is not really the shown speed.  So even though you think you are doing 100km/h doesn’t mean you are.  You could be going faster or slower.  This is when you feel the road conditions and what the other drivers are doing comes into it.

Sometimes, when driving in heavy traffic, I don’t really drive to the speedometer’s gauge but to the feel of the traffic around me.  I feel my way around. When driving alone or in light traffic on the freeways, I use my speedo or GPS to determine my speed.  My GPS actually says I am doing 97 km/h when my speedo says I am doing 100 km/h.   Which one do I believe?  The GPS of course.  On a recent trip there was a speedo check over 5km.  With a speedo check system a sign saying 0 KM is displayed on the side on the road. At this point either reset your trip meter or take note of the KM’s level on your speedo.   Each KM there is a marker and then at the end of the 5 km’s take note of how far your car indicated you travelled.  I had done 5.2km.  So an extra 200 meters.  When I raised this with my manufacturer, Mazda, they informed me that it could vary either way by up to 14% and this is indicated in the owner’s manual.

So back to yesterday – there were so many drivers who were just obviously driving really slowly in perfect driving conditions.  The whole feel of the road felt wrong.  Too many drivers were doing 90 in the 100 zones and others doing 100 in a 110 zone.  When it is only a couple of KM’s below the speed limit that is fine but when it is 10% lower, then that is when trouble starts.  As I mentioned the roads were pretty busy but not too busy that you couldn’t do the speed limit.  But when you come up behind a driver doing 10 km less than the limit and there are cars either side of you it is not that easy to pull out to overtake. When these cars are in the 2 right hand lanes it is even more frustrating.

And there wasn’t just one on the road.  There must have been a couple of dozen at least.  Each new one I came across made the drive that much more uncomfortable.  These drivers may think they are driving safely by being under the speed limit but in reality, they could be contributing to an unsafe road network.  Yes the speed limit is just that. A limit.  And the signs do not say you must do 100 km/h but common sense has to set in.  Some impatient drivers may just pull out to the right to overtake a slower driver out of frustration and end up colliding with a car overtaking them.

Other things which were on display yesterday were the amount of drivers who were following way too closely. In such busy, high speed traffic, there is no way they could stop in time if an incident occurred.  I had some of these fools tailgating me too closely as well.  I don’t speed and when overtaking someone doing 97 km/h I will do 100 km/h to overtake, i.e. I don’t change my speed. But when you have someone who is doing 110 km/h and they have to slow down to the LEGAL limit they try and intimidate by sticking closely behind you.  It doesn’t work guys.  In fact, I am more inclined to just hang in the overtaking lane a little while longer just to piss you off.  Sitting behind me less than 2 meters away is just a foolish move and it is endangering my family’s lives.  I am going to invest in a rear mounted flashing sign one day which will say “Oi, dickhead!  Stop tailgating!”  Or something like that.

When it comes to speed on the freeways, perhaps it is time for Australia to implement the system used in Germany – The Autobahn.  From the few conversations I have had with friends who have actually driven on it, it is very safe and could be just what is needed now.  In the meantime though, please keep left unless overtaking and also stick to the speed limit.

We made it to Seaworld safely only for me having to walk behind slow arse walkers 5 abreast with no chance of overtaking.  Oh joy.

Are you a below the limit driver?  Do you stay in the overtaking lane too long?  What would you say on your rear mounted sign to tailgating drivers?  Leave a comment below.

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