A Wageningen student, Anne Armdorffer (Cell Biology), has been in Brisbane in Australia since mid August to do an internship. She researched into Malaria infections at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research. Anne witnessed the disastrous floods at close quarters. She compiled a diary of events for Resource.
I return from a short vacation in Perth (40 degrees C, clear blue skies and bright sun) and have to adjust again to gray rainy Brisbane. My co-workers tell me that I have chosen the worst summer to come to Brisbane. Luckily, there're only three more weeks left for me and I look forward to an enjoyable tour afterwards. My last major timepoint experiment will be carried out this week.
Tuesday 11 January
Today, I heard the news in the lab that there are big floods in the surrounding villages of Brisbane. There is a danger that the flood waters will come this way. I stay very close to the lab, just ten minutes away by foot, and on a hill. Therefore, I'm not worried at all. The impact of the flooding only hit me when I turn on the tv at my lodging and see how the flood waters took the little city of Toowoomba by surprise, with water rising up to the roofs, cars floating, rescue operations and all. In Brisbane itself, the flood waters are rising as well. My housemate has fled to be with her sister who doesn't want to be on her own. I'm therefore all alone here, chained to the tv and the internet. I'm not worried about my situation (although I have heeded advice from back home and filled several empty bottles with water).
Wednesday 12 January
I head for the lab as usual today. How can I abandon my very last experiment? Moreover, from where I am, one can't tell that houses are completely submerged in water five kilometers away. The realization that a part of Brisbane is in total chaos while other parts are all right feels really strange. There are no more fresh vegetables available and I too have stocked up extra cans of vegetables, just in case. Many parts of Brisbane have no electricity (that would last for a week).
Thursday 13 January
After leaving the lab, I decide to play the calamity tourist. The river would reach its peak today, but luckily, the water level has not risen to as high as predicted, and the rain has stopped in the meantime. The usually calm river is now violent and brown. Streets are submerged and mud pools are left behind in areas where the water has subsided.
Sunday 15 January
The big clean-up has begun this weekend. This is termed 'the second tidal wave in Queensland' on tv, this time caused by volunteers. People are showing up everywhere to help. The official registration centre has even stopped accepting volunteers. A pleasant atmosphere prevails as people reach out to others. Complete strangers help one another to clean up the houses. One of the images which will stay in my mind is that of the grass field opposite our lab. Usually used to hold sport classes for school children, it has now become a temporary rubbish dump. Sofas, washing machines, refrigerators... even entire furniture sets are being transported here. Gradually, it becomes clear that the damage is enormous.
'The realization that a part of Brisbane is in total chaos while other parts are all right feels really strange.'
The flooding has not affected me, fortunately, although I would have it that my last three weeks here were spent differently. I have finished my internship as planned, and the homes of friends and colleagues have fortunately been spared. I will begin touring Australia next week, so I cross my fingers that the cyclone predicted to hit the east coast will change its path!