Friday, February 3, 2012

A Disaster Declared in Mitchell, Outback Qld

Today has been spent with my mind swinging between the floods of Mitchell and the reality of our trip to Dandenong (two hours by car, west of Phillip Island, on the outskirts of Melbourne), where I had stitches removed from skin cancers on my ear, forehead and chin.

Later, as I wandered around the Dandenong market -- where a huge array of goods were for sale, with buyers of all age groups and nationalities -- my mind was back in Mitchell, buzzing with concerns, possible outcomes and a deep sense of loss -- both for ourselves and for all our friends in Mitchell and surrounds who are flooded.

The irony of our house name in Mitchell struck home today. We had a sign made that said 'Welcome to the Bering Sea'. The former owners of the property had porthole windows built into the front door. The name was meant to suggest our migration from Phillip Island to a warmer winter in outback Queensland, like the Phillip Island mutton birds who fly to the Bering Sea for the winter. Today, our house is surrounded by a sea of flood water, and the photo shows our friend Richard checking our house, in his kayak. You can see Stego's house to the right. Stego is, of course, safe here on Phillip Island. The water is now up to the house sign!

Meanwhile the river has risen higher still. In all probability water is waist deep throughout our house. This is the worst flood in white history.

We knew there was a risk of flooding when we bought our home alongside the Maranoa River, but somehow we didn't expect it to happen!

I feel a profound sense of disappointment and loss. It's not just a house and its contents, but a way of life. After five years of living seven months of each year in Mitchell, we've made ourselves very comfortable, fitted into the community, made friends and feel the outback is home. It's a unique outback lifestyle that is at risk rather than a house and its contents. After all, the contents are mainly stuff.

The only thing I really care about is a manuscript I wrote about St Francis of Assisi and his gift with animals. I have only one copy of the book and it's sitting on a bench in the kitchen. I hope the flood waters haven't destroyed it. Nothing else matters as much as this book which took over one year to write and involved research which took us to Assisi in Italy. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, our hearts go out to all our friends and neighbours in Mitchell who are suffering stress and dreadful damage to their homes. We are thinking of you.

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