A heartbreaking return home


Amelia Bentley
January 2, 2011 - 4:20PM

Twenty two towns are either underwater or isolated and 900 houses have been abandoned as floods wreak havoc across Queensland.

The flooded area is larger than France and Germany combined, or greater than the size of New South Wales.

But although authorities have praised the "community spirit" of an estimated 200,000 Queenslanders affected by the disaster, they warn people to prepare for despair as they return to their sodden homes.
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"It will be a heartbreaking return to homes for a lot of Queenslanders," said Emergency Management Queensland Acting Assistant Director-General Warren Bridson.

He said there had been countless examples of people helping strangers cope with the disaster.

"There has been a fantastic amount of community spirit and resilience," he said.

"It has been a heart-warming effort by so many and, as a community, we are holding up well to this mammoth task."

State Disaster Coordinator Deputy Commissioner Ian Stewart said police increased patrols in flooded towns in a bid to prevent looting.

So far there were no reported incidents of thefts, he said.

"As residents return home we are starting to see items being laid out to dry in the sun, we want to remind the community that these are not discarded items and please respect peoples property," he said.

Mr Bridson urged residents in flood affected communities to take care when returning to homes which have been inundated.

"It will be a heartbreaking return to homes for a lot of Queenslanders but I urge them to be mindful that there are still some dangers to consider," he said.

He said residents should ensure their homes are structurally sound and that the electrical systems are checked by an electrician.

"There are also the risk of snakes and other wildlife and pests. Floodwaters have brought out many snakes and we ask that you take extra care when you are returning to your homes," he said.

For those communities where floodwaters have receded, residents should also heed the Queensland Health advice about cleaning up around their homes, he said.

"If your house has been flooded, wear gloves and covered shoes when cleaning up, and treat any cuts with antiseptic," he said.

"After cleaning the silt and debris from the floors and other surfaces, use disinfectant or bleach as well.

"Once the main water supply is back in operation, flush out all taps for five to 10 minutes to clear the pipes of sediment."

Mr Bridson also praised State Emergency Services volunteers.

"They are an amazing bunch of men and women who have dedicated their Christmas and holiday period to helping out others," he said.