The sound of the doorbell had my two dogs racing for the door. Pavlov’s theory was well proven every time that doorbell rang. If I didn’t hear the doorbell over the crunching noise of chewing my cereal, the sound of sprinting dogs across the tiled floor would bring the presence of a visitor to my attention. It was the beginning of 2011 and absolutely pouring with rain. Not just buckets, more like fire hoses aimed straight down from above as if to prevent fire for the next twenty years. I was minding my parents’ house which was located on the Brisbane river and was to be the only one home for the next few days.
With Fudge and Charlie scratching at the door as I opened it, I was greeted by two police officers. “Morning, sir. My name is Constable L. How is your house going? Is the river rising or threatening at this stage?” I had my concerns that there could be some minor flooding, but now I became aware that the chance of this was increasing by the minute. As I showed the officers to the banks of the river, I noticed that there was an increasing intensity to the normally subdued tidal flow of the river. At this stage I hadn’t heard of any warnings over the television or radio but the officers were slightly more realistic. “You might need to prepare; alert your neighbours and bring valuables to high ground.” I got straight onto friends, including good mate DC, that lived very close to our house and we began visiting friends in the local area and even people we didn’t know to assist them in removing furniture, fridges, pianos and books for the rest of the day. About mid-afternoon, I took a quick minute to survey the river. The first thing I saw was a pontoon racing down the river with a boat still on it. Not far from this was an unoccupied yacht on its side half sunk being ripped downstream by the current. As I stared in amazement, boat after pontoon after boat floated aimlessly down the river. This was not good. I continued to help anyone I could to remove their valuables from their homes all afternoon until I looked at my car that I parked on the street earlier in the day. The water was now around the tyres and rising fast. With a quick organisation of people to ensure their cars were moved to high ground, I helped to move anything else I could before it got dark, then headed for home.
Fortunately, our house was well above the waterline and quite safe from the now reported potential high mark of the flood. Halfway through the night, I left DC’s house on the high ground to go back to my place and call it a night. As I fell asleep, the river sounded more like the shores of a beach, interspersed with the odd crack of a floating obstacle hitting a jetty along the river. Not long after I fell asleep, I was awoken to an enormous bang. I jumped out of bed and opened the curtain to look down at the river; our jetty and all the neighbours’ jetties had been swallowed by the river. The water level was still rising, yet there was no immediate danger to our house or anyone’s house in the near vicinity, so I went back to sleep.
It was barely sunrise as I woke up to quite an amazingly beautiful summer’s day where there was not a cloud in sight. What made this day eerily different was that the river was gushing along with the force of a waterfall, rising in a threatening manner, and as I ran over to DC’s place I noticed the inevitable. Entire rows of houses were now under water. DC and I temporarily commandeered a chase boat from the local rowing shed, which the police witnessed and allowed, as we needed to make sure no-one was still trapped in the flooded area. The area that was flooded in our neighbourhood was about the size of twenty city blocks. As we meandered through the driveways in our trusty boat, we noticed one critical point. All the houses still had their electricity on. Even after an unknown occupant of our boat contacted the electricity authority, they said it could take more than a day to turn it off. After a few choice words to the authority about the current situation in our city, the electricity went off within minutes. We spent a few hours going up and down streets to find that everyone got out in time, so we retreated to the banks of our street to plan what we were to do now.
For three days, there was no power and all of the local stores were either flooded in or had nothing to sell. I’ve seen situations similar to this around the world where, in some cases, anarchy breaks out and everyone decides to pick-up a weapon to defend instead of a shovel to help. Things were, and still are, different in Brisbane, Australia. Everyone knew the flood would come to an end and we would all need to chip in and help each other out to clean up our city and support those who had lost everything. What would happen when the waters subsided would show that people from all walks of life can truly work together and help each other out. When those waters went back down to reveal the destruction left behind, the assistance provided by complete strangers to one another would put smiles on faces around the world.