US Philanthropic Response to Australia’s Floods: Quiet

5348664930_bdee9ea306I find it interesting that in the U.S., there is very little media coverage about the flooding in Brisbane from the philanthropic community. I’ve been monitoring the responses and so far, barely a handful of blog articles or tweets have surfaced. Is philanthropic response to disaster discriminatory? When a major disaster occurs in a developed country like Australia, is there a lack of response or interest because we expect the citizens or government of that country to be able to take care of itself? Or, is it because Australia is so far away, unlike Haiti, that we are not connected to it? Or, is it disaster giving fatigue kicking in?

Give2Asia posted the following blog piece on January 20th. It is an update from Linda Griffith, Give2Asia’s field advisor in Australia:

The Brisbane River became catastrophic on January 13 due to the combination of king tides, the requirement to let water out of the over-full Wivenhoe Dam (the city’s principal water source), torrential rain of 600-800 ml in the previous weeks, and the added in-flows descending from Toowoomba.  The river peaked close to 5.5-meters. Residents were helpless to save their houses and in the worst-affected suburbs, houses disappeared under the flood. Luckily, the water started to recede the next day, and some residents were able to return to their homes to start the clean-up.

Food supply is low and access to roads and power remain major problems.  Fruit and vegetables will be hard to find for a long time, not only because Brisbane’s wholesale produce market was totally flooded but also because the Lockyer Valley is an important food bowl and was inundated. Many roads are still impassable.

Yet in the face of such devastation and destruction, there is an extraordinary spirit of cooperation and willingness to help from tens of thousands of volunteers. Volunteers worked tirelessly to assist in the evacuation and to save property.  Armed with their own cleaning equipment, protective clothing, antibacterial gel, and food, many volunteers eagerly scrubbed out strangers’ houses.  Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd even waded through knee-deep water in his electorate for two days helping residents carry valuables and save what they could. The feeling of support and camaraderie is overwhelming as is the speed with which the clean-up is being accomplished.

Some statistics on the current situation:

  • 30,000 properties have been affected in a city of 400,000 households with many flooded over the roofs
  • 86 suburbs have been severely affected in a city of almost 400 suburbs
  • 3,000 businesses have been seriously affected
  • 7,502 people have registered as homeless and 4,336 of those are still in evacuation shelters
  • In other parts of Queensland, 26 towns have contaminated water
  • The Premier’s Disaster relief Appeal has raised $55 million but damage will be in the tens of billions of dollars and will require massive funding from the government, corporations and other organizations and individuals.
  • Some towns may be isolated until February

Photo: RWN Photography, Flickr, Creative Commons

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