Insights — 19 January 2011

In times of catastrophe, people come closer; Subhadra writes from Queensland

The recent floods in Australia are a main topic in the media. If one hasn’t actually experienced a flood, one cannot imagine the actual impact on one’s life; seeing photos or video clips just isn’t’ real enough. But what also happens in these times of crises is that people help each other and come closer to each other, and also develop more empathy. Subhadra, who lives in Queensland, sent the letter below:

Dear friends,

I am writing from St. Lucia, an inner suburb of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. You will have read about the devastating floods our area just experienced, an area as large as France and Germany combined. I just got the power back; we only lost it for several hours and some streets close-by are without power, other streets north of the University are flooded. The University sports grounds and pools are underwater – I don’t know about buildings.

It is quiet, except for the sounds of the helicopters… very few cars are being driven. People are walking to see the devastation. There is only one road out of St Lucia – the other two are flooded. People are kayaking down the streets – on the golf course!  I think they have a sense of humor – a new way to see Brisbane. The shops are sold out – I couldn’t buy bread two days ago – and still none!  This morning was after we experienced the peak – except there is now rain; it has been sunny for two days, till now. And when I got up this morning and walked down the street, there were three ducks eating the verge grass. Haven’t seen them there before!

”]Queensland Floods - The Big Wet [photo by Nick de Villiers, Ipswich]

I think this catastrophe has the same impact as ‘Katrina’ in New Orleans, except that was a poor, black town. It will take years to repair and rebuild here. Railways, roads…buildings. People have lost a lot and business will suffer. Even I have missed my one day’s work. This is dramatic, and the shock was palpable in the ethers, when Toowoomba was hit. I visited there a week ago – knowing it was a one day window before many weeks of being able to go there again.  We went to Stanthorpe and Warick and saw they were neat, clean and cared for towns.  I have two friends of my homestay boys here – as they couldn’t get home, or were in the second storey of a house. (A homestay is the “new” boarding house business that older and divorced women used to do 50 to 100 years ago. Just a lot more regulation now!  Being close to St Lucia University helps, as there are regular English study classes there and at many other institutions around the city.)

My friends went knocking on doors yesterday to help people along the river. Fortunately I think all those people were okay – but they helped move furniture upstairs.

There is a lot of grief in the ethers also. I can feel it. I have someone else’s food in my fridge – as they have no power. They have a gas hot water system, so people are showering there… Everyone is helping somehow. Jennifer’s employer couldn’t get to work so she stayed for 8 hours instead of her normal three – guess she did the same today, and tomorrow…. Her husband is working from home so that works well for them. I have a friend in a high rise in Brisbane – no power, but she wanted to stay there; I don’t think she realized how long that might be for.

Time to read and meditate.  That is all I can think of at the moment. Your prayers are needed. There are terrible stories coming out. I think there will be shock for years.

A week later after we asked Subhadra to let us have an update:

Has meditation helped? Actually I just sent energy. I was made aware of it coming through my hands – so directed it to the flood affected areas. I was not affected physically as my home is high.

People were taking cakes and fruit to the workers on the weekend. They had them wrapped, in napkins or with sterilizing hand wash… there were sausage sizzles at the main clean-up places. Apparently 12,000 people went and registered to volunteer and were bussed around the city areas.

The buses and trains are free of charge this week. I think that is a brilliant strategy to get people out, and feeling that things are back to normal. I went on the train and bus to Ipswich – about 3/4 hour from Brisbane. What struck me was the water mark along the trees. The trees were probably 10 meters high – so mature trees – and on the top 1 meter was a bright green line, above the brown caked leaves below.  As I don’t know Ipswich I am not sure what I saw, but the city appeared basically cleaned up; as we were driven down the streets I saw shop fronts which were obviously under water before, cleaned up ready for refurbishing.

The areas of Brisbane near me were just about cleaned up of the massive amounts of debris on the verges. Trees, beds, all furniture you can imagine… all this is just one week since the areas flooded and only 3 or 4 days since the water receded enough to get working on the clean-up. I believe some areas in the city were without power yesterday – a friend working at Rio Tinto said there was no power in his office, but I am sure it will be back very soon, if not now.

There has been outstanding leadership from the Lord Mayor, Campbell Newman and Anna Bligh – probably the most lowly rated politician in Australia, till now. She came forth as a strong leader.

Subhadra

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