The Moment

  • Share
  • Read Later
Tomas Guerin / REUTERS

A passenger in a car waves for assistance as a flash flood sweeps across an intersection in Toowoomba

As the floodwaters of the Brisbane River churned through the heart of the city that shares its name, some residents found solace in the sense of ironic humor for which Australia is famed. They gathered along the safer banks and, beers in hand, cheered sardonically as stop signs and phone booths swept by. The drollery earned them a scolding from Anna Bligh, premier of Queensland. "This incident is not a tourist event," she said. "This is a deeply serious natural disaster." By midweek, the floods had killed more than 20 people, and scores were missing. Queensland's coal mines, which generate revenues of $30 billion a year, have been badly hit: production losses are projected to exceed $1.25 billion. The rains came after a decade of drought that was so bad, some Queensland farmers were put on suicide watch. Extreme swings in weather are common in Australia, but the frequency could be increasing. A recent government study warned that because of climate change, in the next century, a "1-in-100-year event" — like this year's floods — could occur "several times a year." Best to hold on to that sense of humor.