Located in Toowoomba, former police sergeant and Queensland MP Peter Pyke is a citizen-journalist who provided hourly situation reports to the nation throughout the crisis in Toowoomba this week from an isolated and devastated community.
As an Aussie who lives in the bush, I have a message to the Prime Minister and the Queensland Premier: Australians can walk and chew gum. While the Queensland police and emergency services are full on in ‘response’ mode and concentrating now on the inundations of Brisbane and Ipswich there is an urgent need to maintain a stronger focus on the areas to the west where people have been in flood conditions now since before Christmas. Yup, since before Christmas.
In the South-West Queensland and the Southern Queensland Regions some communities have now experienced three separate flood events since 24 December 2011. No-one in Australia will have missed the terrible events of Monday 10 January 2011 when an “inland tsunami” wiped out the CBD of Toowoomba, taking the lives of two people in the city and sweeping down the Toowoomba Range into the townships and Lockyer Valley below wiping out whole communities and drowning at least another eight people with more deaths expected as bodies are slowly recovered.
While I am hearing mayors of some localities such as Toowoomba and radio-journalists from Victoria saying western communities ‘can survive without milk in their tea’ and are blithely urging people not to panic buy, their platitudes do not represent the true situation in their communities. Many regional communities ran out of far more than milk and bread days ago. Panic buying has already stripped shops and service stations, even in the larger communities including Toowoomba. Yes, mayor, Toowoomba.
At Charlton, just to the west of Toowoomba, a truck driver driving a truck signed by one of the two largest food chains in the nation today sought police assistance because he said he was being approached by travellers and locals seeking food which they believed he may have on his truck. This is happening now, Mayor, Premier, Prime Minister. In Toowoomba, the HQ for all emergency services for this large region, today, the police and emergency services communications systems urgently warned all crews to refuel as the city is about to run out of this essential. In Warwick, the next largest centre to Toowoomba’s south, fuel supplies have been reserved for emergency vehicles.
If a co-ordinator for the South-West Queensland and Southern Queensland Regions has not yet been appointed to ensure these regions do not come to a complete standstill and their situations do not become worse than necessary, will the Prime Minister and/or the Premier please do so?
Today we’ve seen some patches of blue sky in Toowoomba, which is a blessing but no-one can guarantee that this kinder weather will continue. We could have further flood events, no-one says what happened earlier this week cannot happen again when predicted rain returns in a few days time. While the opportunity presents with better weather in the west, we need to attempt to re-supply all communities to the west of Brisbane - now. Have we not learned lessons from the past?
Country people are the last to complain and to tell authorities they are in trouble, so let me do that for them. Queensland south-western and southern towns and the largest regional city in Australia – Toowoomba - are now in trouble. Food, fuel and medical supplies will run out very shortly in a number of communities. Re-supply of essential foodstuffs and fuel is urgently required.
Road and rail re-supply is out of the question for many areas so the logical response to this emergency is a major air re-supply which I say is required, now.
Hundreds, possibly up to 1,000 trucks are stranded at major road closures throughout the west, south-west and southern regions. Responsible heavy-vehicle drivers are aware that attempting to negotiate damaged roads in heavy vehicles will destroy highways, so they’ve done the responsible thing and parked up. Some trucks are stranded in isolated areas while others are gathered at roadhouses, creating temporary communities. Locals report that truckies are running out of food as are the roadhouses, towns and communities drivers and their trucks are stranded in.
Truck drivers are also survivors of the recent flood events and they deserve assistance, too.
Many of these trucks will contain the essentials now urgently needed by the south-western and southern regional communities they are stranded in. Things like food, milk and fuel, possibly. A decision should be made to access all re-supply essentials available on trucks stranded in isolated localities. This seems to be a no-brainer to me. This can help to keep babies, children, the elderly and emergency services in good shape. It may save lives, it could certainly prevent hardship. That decision needs to be made urgently.
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