Across Continents

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Picture emerging

Now almost twenty four hours on since Cyclone Yasi hit the coast of northern Queensland. Biggest to impact on mainland Australia in living memory. Wreaking devastation over a vast area. Ploughing far into the hinterland. Reaching towns and settlements that haven’t seen a cyclone for decades. The full extent of the damage is unlikely to become clear for a few more days. Emergency services still battling their way through to some communities. So far at least, just one life has been lost. Tragic of course. But not the deadly event everyone had feared.

I’d wondered why this might be. Mostly likely a combination of factors. Plain experience. Met one seasoned Queenslander. Her eighth cyclone. Had long since cut down trees and large foliage close to her home. Anything that could inflict damage in high winds. Emptied the freezer for the cyclone season. Just in case the power went off. Stock of tinned food in the cupboard.

Then there’s the sheer volume of information. You really can’t say you didn’t know. Some pretty frank advice. No melodramas. No infuriating political correctness. The authorities having the confidence of the public. Media trusted to help get word out without hype or distortion. It works. Team effort written all over it. When Premier Anna Bligh tells residents of low-lying coastal settlements to "run" – don’t even stop to pack a bag – you know she means it. I wouldn’t even grab my toothbrush.

And it’s not just the State Government that seems to take a very honest approach. Emergency services. Local mayors. Utility companies. Realistic predictions for the restoration of services. Explaining what the problems are, the difficulties to be overcome. Priorities for repair. And not forgetting the Bureau of Meteorology. Without whom we’d, quite literally, we’d not have seen any of this coming.

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