January 28, 2011

Waters recede, but the floods have left their mark

Andrew McGlashan
Volunteers clear debris after the floods in Brisbane, January 16, 2011
Volunteers help clear debris after the flood waters receded in Brisbane  © Getty Images

McDonald's signs are two-a-penny in most towns and cities around the world, but the one reaching high above the restaurant in Goodna, a suburb west of Brisbane, is a symbol of much more than fast food. It was the only thing left pointing out of the floodwaters after they swept through the town earlier this month.

The TV pictures were stark enough, but it’s difficult to comprehend the volume of water involved, especially now that it has disappeared to leave behind the massive clean-up operation. In Brisbane itself there aren’t too many obvious signs of what went on. The recovery work has been impressive. The river is still a menacing site, and the boat services remain suspended, but life in the CBD appears something near normal.

That, though, is far from the case in places like Goodna, which was in the same flood path as Ipswich where so much devastation was wreaked. The Australian cricketers spent a few hours at Goodna State School on Friday, which is on the brow of a hill, and as you descend the road a sign reads: “Prone to flooding, indicators show depth.” Those signs were totally submerged a few weeks ago.

The school normally has more than 600 students, but not all have returned for the new term because they were sent to evacuation centres when their homes were flooded and haven’t yet been tracked down. For those present, a chance to play cricket with their heroes was a welcome distraction.

Driving down the hill from the school you pass the McDonald's then a few hundred yards later you see houses that have been ruined. Some residents were back beginning the huge task of clearing up and hosing down and there was a real sense of community – the “Queensland spirit” as Mitchell Johnson had said earlier.

Everywhere the water has left its mark. Mud and silt line the roads and pavements, wrecked cars are still where the torrent left them and, down by the river, there was a boat on its trailer lodged on the bank. Across on the opposite bank you could see a line of mud marked on the ground which showed the high-water mark, almost twice the depth of what was still a swollen river.

Arriving after all the damage had been done felt awkward, but when a TV crew asked a couple, who were working on their house, if they could take some footage they were happy to oblige. The gentleman carried on hosing down his property while two guys pulled up in a truck to offer him drinking water.

Back by the river itself, there was also a sense of intrigue and wanting to remember what happened. People pulled up in cars and walked to overlook the river to take photos. Images from the last few weeks will go down in Queensland’s history. Pictures, though, only tell half the story.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Andrew McGlashan
Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.

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