and Cyclone YASI

11th JAN 2011
Queensland, the northern Australian territory, has suffered extraordinary floods now for many days and just as it seemed the worst had peaked the Brisbane region and city is suffering a terrifying surge of water.Thousands of people have been urged to leave parts of Australia's third largest city, which is facing its worst flooding in decades.

Between 6,500 and 9,000 homes and businesses are set to flood in Queensland's state capital.
Streets are largely empty and families have moved to refuge centres in some areas, with the peak of the flooding expected on Wednesday and Thursday.
Flash floods across Queensland have left 10 dead and more than 70 missing. Some 200,000 people have been affected.

There is no doubt that Australia is better prepared and organised that most countries to deal with such a crisis, both by temperament and capability, but this will stretch them economically and industrially as well.

I have to say I was struck by a remark made by an Australian spokesperson from the affected region on the BBC News this morning. We can rebuild the houses and the infrastructure, he said, but the human loss is tragic and irreplaceable. I realise some people may be surprised at what I have to say, but while this may be the case to a degree in Australia, in much of the world both developed and under-developed, the reverse is the case.

When the homes, businesses and infrastructure and agriculture of a country are destroyed but nearly all the people who depend upon them are left, there is a greater problem than the other way around, a fact that has been proven beyond doubt in many recent instances where the resulting problems are so far insoluble. People are designed to last very much less long than buildings and are replaced continuously. We expend millions in national treasure to maintain buildings of value and merit, from the Colosseum and St Peters in Rome to the stately homes of Europe and America built in more recent centuries, not to mention the great Cathedrals, the City of Venice, the palaces of Russia and the vital subway systems of many a great metropolis. People are by definition replacable and a good thing too or we would be stuck with them for far too long past their use-by-date. It is an emotional wrench when we lose them in their youth, prematurely, that much I will concede, but try replacing the pyramids, or rebuilding the sewers of London or installing a new gas, electric or water system in a modern connurbation and you will get the point. The societies of our great world cities are extremely vulnerable.

In World War II, there was an extensive destruction of buildings and infrastructure. The reconstruction, which took many decades and relative financial aide beyond our wildest dreams today, also took human and material resources we would now have a problem mustering, not for numerical lack of humans but for a surplus of humans unadapted and unskilled for the task and at the same time unadapted for self-sustaining survival, being these days dependent on the sophisticated centralised production and distribution systems we have developed in our boastful insistance on proving Malthus wrong, and to which we are now in hock.

Australia is, fortunately, less proportionately in hock than other countries when it comes to realistic notions of survival but I still maintain the human losses, sad though they may be, are the least of their worries right now.

JANUARY 14th 2011
Scientists are unclear as to any linkage with the Australian and Brazilian floods. The circumstances are notably different with a massive amoint of rain falling in a very short time.

Rescuers are trying to find survivors in cut-off areas of south-eastern Brazil hit by deadly floods that have left at least 480 people dead.

FEBRUARY 1st 2011
Now what? A typhoon (cyclone, as they call it there) on the scale of Hurricane Katrina is headed for Oz.

FEBRUARY 3rd 2011
There is happiness that this cyclone has caused no deaths, due to both luck and excellent organisation. But the damage is extensive.