Implications of Australia's Disastrous Flooding

Thousands flee the nation's third-largest city

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Thousands are fleeing Brisbane, Australia, as the floodwaters that have already killed 30 approach the country's third-largest city. Emergency crews in the areas already hit are still working to rescue trapped victims and to search for the 78 people still missing. Officials expect the situation to worsen as the flood hits Brisbane, which has a population of two million. "The nation does need to brace itself for the fact that the death toll as a result of yesterday’s flash flooding is likely to rise," Prime Minister Julia Gillard warned. The Washington Post has collected some shocking homemade videos of the flood's damage. Here is what reporters and observers are saying about this ongoing disaster.

  • Climate Change and Australia's Extreme Weather Global Voice's Kevin Rennie reproduces a "telling graphic" by the Australian government show the country's rainfall in December 2010, much of which was either a record high or record low. Rennie adds, "Many rural voters have been reluctant to accept global warming as a cause of extreme weather events. They may well find it more difficult to get financial compensation from the public purse in future decades."
  • Could Destroy Much of Great Barrier Reef  "The disaster for Australia could also be a disaster for one of their natural treasures," Discover's Andrew Moseman worries. "Besides the immediate danger to human life, flooding also can carry land-based pollution out to sea. Just beyond Brisbane’s coastal location lies part of the Great Barrier Reef, and some Australian scientists worry that all the flood waters could damage the irreplaceable natural formation."
  • Threat of Mosquito-Borne Illnesses  The Sydney Morning Herald's Julia Medew warns, "Professor Tony McMichael, from the Australian National University’s Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, said increasing numbers of mosquitoes breeding in the warm, wet conditions could cause fresh outbreaks of the potentially deadly dengue fever and debilitating Ross River virus in coming weeks. Murray River encephalitis, a mosquito borne disease that has a 10-20 per cent mortality rate, could also emerge."
  • Why Search & Rescue Has Been So Hard  "Darkness and fog prohibited the state emergency service helicopters from overnight rescues," Al Jazeera explains, "and some people were still waiting to be plucked from roof tops on Tuesday morning. Rescue workers were later battling more bad weather and heavy rain and thunderstorms were forecast for the region for most of the day." In response to these challenges, "the military would begin searching for stranded people at first light while police issued warnings that residents of low-lying areas of other towns including Chinchilla should evacuate to higher ground."
  • Long-Term Damage to Australia's Economy  "The financial impact of Queensland's devastating floods is growing dramatically," The Australian's Phil Ayling and Teresa Ooi write. "Disruptions to business and insurance claims will slash earnings in key industry sectors. The implications for the broad economy are also being felt, with the Australian dollar plunging yesterday because of the likely impact of lower exports on Australia's trade figures." So far, the bottom line is grim: "Economists said the floods would shave about 0.2 to 0.6 percentage points off the nation's gross domestic product."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.