cxzThose living on a ridge high in the mountains might reasonably suppose that, flooding is the last natural disaster that could befall them – but that’s precisely what happened to the unfortunate inhabitants of Toowoomba in the Darling Downs, on the western slopes of Queensland’s Great Dividing Range in eastern Australia. On January 10 2011 a violent flash flood inundated the town, damaging property, sweeping away cars and killing four people before roaring on down the Lockyer Valley like an inland tsunami to wreak further havoc.
This destructive occurrence was but one example of widespread flooding that affected most of Queensland towards the end of 2010 and at the beginning of the following year. The state had experienced serious flooding before, especially around Brisbane, but nothing like this. Major rivers burst their banks, with settlements along the Burnett and Fitzroy rivers particularly hard hit. But the Ballone, Condamine and Mary rivers also surged powerfully. Over 70 towns and up to 250,000 people were affected, with communities isolated, mass evacuations commonplace and widespread cutting of power and drinking- water supplies. Hundreds of roads were closed as the waters rose dramatically then stubbornly refused to recede. Coal and salt mines were flooded, headlining the drastic all round impact on Queensland’s economy.
The floods were the result of heavy rainfall caused by Tropical Cyclone Tasha interacting with a trough during a La Nina weather event. That said, increasingly unpredictable weather patterns attributed by some to global warming seem to hit Australia particularly hard, with prolonged periods of drought (invariably accompanied by deadly bush fires) at one end of the spectrum and unprecedented floods at the other. In late January and February of 2011, the disastrous Queensland floods were followed by record rainfall and extensive flooding in Victoria, to the south.
When: December 2010 to January 2011
Where: Much of Central and Southern Queensland, Australia
Death toll: 35 (plus nine more missing)
You should know: One of the saddest yet most uplifting stories to emerge from the floods took place on January 10 when 13-year-old Jordan Lucas Rice of Toowoomba was swept to his death, along with his mother, after forgoing his own chance of escape by insisting that rescuers should first save his younger brother Blake from the raging waters. He has been described as Australia’s youngest national hero.