This time last year we were holidaying in New Zealand.
Driving around the northern tip of the country in and out of patchy Internet reception frantically trying to get news of home...
We left Brisbane as the city was bracing itself for a major flood.
Earlier in the week we had witnessed horrific scenes on the TV of the devastation in other parts of the state as the water claimed homes, businesses and worst of all lives...
We knew that Brisbane was next - but we didn't know what this really meant.
Waiting at the airport that morning was eerie. The skies were a strange grey colour, the staff and travellers all looked apprehensive. My phone kept beeping with texts from near and far checking we were ok. My work sent a text to tell me not to come in...
I felt like we were running away from something and part of me felt relieved and another part felt guilty...
After a delayed flight we reached Auckland and checked into the hotel. The first thing we did was switch on the TV. Nothing major appeared to have happened, just lots of precautionary tales of people barricading buildings and evacuating homes. A quick call home to check and again all seemed okay.
Next morning was different. Now the TV news showed familiar landmarks under water. The river swollen beyond recognition, - water and mud....so much mud...
Another phone call - our home was okay.
The nearby creek was high and flowing fast but thankfully just making it under the bridges.
|photo by Brooke Gillot|
local creek Jan 2011
|same creek Jan 2012|
It was with some trepidation that I switched off the TV, checked out of the hotel and went to pick up our camper van. All conversations - hotel staff, taxi driver, camper van rental staff was solely about the floods.
Whilst Neil was checking the details of the van, I was using the free wi-fi to find out as much as I could. News channels, local blogs, anything I could log into.
I saw a photo of a golf course under water - a few minutes down the road from our home and had a little panic!
Another phone call....yes, all was still okay.
Brisbane city centre was slowly being engulfed, but our suburb was still okay.
It took a few days to try and steer our thoughts away from home. I don't think we quite managed to switch off completely. New Zealand tried its best. It gave us glorious countryside, spectacular coastlines, miles of nothing - it was beautiful.
|Northern New Zealand|
We did have a lovely holiday. We were lucky.
Even a couple of weeks later as we returned home the Brisbane recovery operation had seriously kicked in. We only saw the aftermath. We heard the stories of rescue and of the volunteers that worked tirelessly to help those in need. We saw the businesses that were closed, drove past some of the boarded up homes and counted our lucky stars.
TV and news coverage concentrated on the clean up and the positives. This was Brisbane and Queensland in recovery mode.
Last night I watched a recorded programme on the National Geographic channel - "Australia's Great Flood". (It's repeated on Fri Jan 20th at 8.30pm). I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. I bit the side of my tongue trying to stop the tears...then I gave up and cried anyway.
The horror came back. The uncontrolled fear that those poor people must have felt.
Now a year on and most of the city is back to its former state. This last week or so there have been services of recognition and remembrance. Yes, there are still families waiting to return home and there are still business counting the loss of income.
There is still grief...
For some people they will never be able to forget the floods of January 2011.
Now that the wet season is here again, we'll keep everything crossed that it was a once in a lifetime occurrence.