The Australian Tsunami

Queensland, Australia is being hammered by torrential rain and flash floods for the past two weeks.  The latest flood swept through on Tuesday, producing a tsunami-style wall of water that tossed cars around like toys, and killed ten people.  As with coastal tsunamis, the wave hit so quickly there was no time for people to get to safety.  CNN quotes a stunned Australian saying “It was almost like a movie scene — I went to a car park, it’s a council car park — and we had cars stacked on top of each other.”

The Queensland capital of Brisbane, with a population of over 2 million, is now under flood alerts, with some 6500 homes at risk.  The streets are jammed with people trying to flee the approaching flood waters.  Military helicopters have been deployed to search for flood survivors.  Meanwhile, the town of Toowoomba, built inside the crater of a long-dead volcano, is vanishing beneath the muddy waters.

These are the worst floods in the area since 1974, and they’ve already overwhelmed the Wivenhoe Dam, a defensive measure built after that earlier disaster. 

The New York Times reports damage estimates as high as $5 billion.  Queensland depends heavily on agriculture and steel production, both of which have been devastated by the floods.  The region produces nearly a third of the world’s steel, so prices of that commodity have already begun to surge.  Draining flood waters out of mines, which are dangerous environments under the best of circumstances, will be a difficult process.

My condolences and best wishes to the people of Queensland.  I wish them safety in dealing with the flood, and good fortune with their recovery efforts, once the waters recede.