Carli Ratcliff: The Rains Came

Published by Monday, January 17, 2011 Permalink 0
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by Carli Ratcliff

Summer Down Under has been anything but sunny, says our Australian correspondent, Carli Ratcliff

The advertising slogan reads, “Queensland: beautiful one day, perfect the next.” For many Queenslanders, there is nothing perfect about this summer.

Subjected to torrential rains and the worst flooding the country has ever seen: 20 people have died, 10 are still missing. In the state’s capital, Brisbane, 11,900 homes and 2,500 businesses were flooded. Many have been rendered homeless, holed up in temporary community shelters or forced to higher ground to take refuge with family or friends.

Queensland is home to the bulk of Australia’s tropical fruit crops, bananas, mangoes, pineapple, passion fruit and watermelon, and summer staples as the mercury heads north of 35 degrees around the country. Many of these crops are submerged, or the roads used to transport them on are. The constant rain has caused watermelons to crack; retailers won’t buy them, so farmers have been handing out water-logged watermelon to kids to play with. The annual Melon Festival in the town of Chinchilla will go ahead in the hopes of raising spirits and much needed funds.

Dairy farmers including Ian Campbell and his family, of award-winning Barambah Organics, located at Goondiwindi on the New South Wales /Queensland border, is one of Australia’s most highly regarded organic dairies, saw their 700-acre farm flood, as well as their factory, which is still running on generators.

Last week I heard a radio interview with an abattoir worker from the small town of Grantham, southwest of Brisbane. With his co-workers gathered on the roof of the abattoir as flood waters rose, he worked to move cattle to higher ground. When he reached the top of the hill he tried to lead the cattle down the other side, to a valley he believed safe, but the cattle refused to budge. From nowhere a flash flood filled the valley, certain death for him and the cows had they not been so stubborn. His coworkers were certain he was dead, and he would have been if not for the cows’ sixth sense.

How Queenslanders will feed themselves and recover from this disaster is as yet unknown. Community spirit, I’m told, is at an all-time high. ‘Bakedrelief’ has seen a bunch of committed bakers, mobilized through Twitter, hard at work baking for hungry rescue workers and the flood-affected and selling biscuits and cakes, to those lucky enough to be unaffected, to raise funds.

Many of Brisbane’s restaurants are underwater including acclaimed Char Cha Cha and Drift Café, named ‘best new restaurant’ at the 2010 Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence, quite literally floated away.

Restaurants around the country are banding together to sponsor flood relief dinners, including Sydney’s The Four In Hand and Rockpool, and Queensland’s Tartufo Ristorante + Bar to raise funds for the rebuilding of the state.

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