The real tragedy, however, has been out in the Lockyer Valley which had the flash flood through (which journailsts said was as bad as the tsunami damage from 5 years ago.) The force of the water there literally tore houses from their foundations, drove through walls and swallowed people up - it is now thought bodies will never be found, which is appalling for the families.
In Brisbane, there was about 36 hours to prepare, but Tuesday was a dreadful panic - supermarkets were stripped bare - (needlessly so!) - and I had great trouble driving back from Milton (where I was working) as roads were already underwater (dreadful rain and high tide). Then we waited as the water crept up (peaked at 4am Thursday). We have been so fortunate, only losing power for an hour or so - Allan and Sarah (son-in-law and daughter) lost power, phone, mobile reception and internet for 3 days, so they came round to our house to work andalso keep cool. Since the rain stopped on Wednesday, it has been a typical Brisbane summer and Sarah, of course, feels the heat very much at present. (she's pregnant) They had water in their street, but it stopped 50m away. It has gone down now, so all they have now is the bad smell of the toxic sludgy mud which covered everything. Our office in Toowong lost power, but our servers in south Brisbane (very flood prone) were OK (2nd floor) and running on generator power (well done iSeek - the company who runs the facility!). The Theological College where I work 2 days a week lost power, but i knew it would be all right. The old house which it is centred on did not go under in the 1893 floods and they were twice the height of the floods this week.
I have been amazed how quickly things have been restored - we even had mail on Friday! Only about 20,000 homes are without power now and most of those are the uninhabitable properties.
It has been sad to watch on TV as people's lives were piled on the side of the road for the council trucks to take away. Even for people who could move everything out of the way, often heavy items could not be moved : I know 2 people who have come home to ruined pianos and a restaurant which lost its $65,000 concert grand.
A friend who lives on the beachfront has sent around photos of the debris washed up near their house - odd things like a whole pumpkin - sad things like a child's little green chair - and mountains of twisted metal and plastic. Their community was going to clear it all together today.
Most bus and train services are back on, except for the train line nearest to us and also our bus service. Access to and from us suburbs out in the west has been the most difficult to restore. One form of transport will be out of commission for two years, we've been told - all the river ferry terminals were broken up by the river's force (it was flowing at 10 knots at one point), so they will all have to be retrieved from the river - twisted metal and concrete - and then rebuilt. All the actual ferries (catamarans) were in shelter and only one was damaged, but their absence will be a big loss - many commute on them, especially to and from the University of Queensland. All summer school classes have been cancelled at that University as so much went under water. The academic year starts at the end of next month, so there's some time to clean up.
What is really beginning to hit us is how much of a trauma this event is being for the vulnerable elderly - some will never recover from the shocks they've had. I heard of one mildly demented man who refused to leave his endangered property and had to be forcibly removed, which was terribly upsetting for his family as well as him and his property was flooded, so his familiar surroundings (so important to those with mild dementia) have gone. We are supporting an elderly lady from church, who was at the stage of becoming hazy about things, but has deteriorated a great deal having had a fall (in mud) and then been taken into hospital as her house was without power. She is now very confused about where she is and why she's there. This must be repeating itself all over Brisbane, I imagine.
As I type this, I can hear the thumping roar of big defence force helicopters going over - back out to the Lockyer Valley to continue the search for bodies out there and the heavy work of removing the random piles of debris which were once homes.
One of the verses from the responsorial Psalm for today (40) which Mervyn drew attention to in his sermon is very apposite, I think:
"He brought me up from the pit of roaring waters, out of the mire and clay: and set my feet upon a rock, and made firm my foothold. And he has put a new song in my mouth."
May we all soon be singing new songs.
Thanks for your concern - keep us in your prayers.