All My Wordly Goods

Jan 21, 2011
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A Singaporean in flooded Brisbane wonders what, if anything, one would take along in times of disaster.

353 Here's to summer: The Australian city of Brisbane has experienced widespread flooding this month, leaving entire suburbs under water for days. (Photo by Ursula Skjonnemand)


It was reported in AsiaOne that when Singaporean Leong Ming En was told to flee his house in the West End suburb of Brisbane last Tuesday, he headed for a supermarket nearby, only to find the food items almost sold out. He managed to buy a pack of unflavoured biscuits. That night, he went to a friend's hilltop home – taking with him only his laptop, camera and passport. He has been wearing the same T-shirt since Tuesday, AsiaOne reported on Friday.

Ming En, it seems, may not have fully grasped the imminent danger, underestimating the fury of Mother Nature that had already taken at least 20 lives. Suburbs were filled with water, while apartment blocks stood like islands in a brown sea. (Nevertheless, Ming En is now safe in a friend's home.)

I can't help but ponder over the importance of his laptop, camera and passport in an emergency evacuation like this. Having gone through the aftermath of two big earthquakes in the Solomon Islands (1978) and Rabaul (1994) – I am now living in Brisbane – I have had an emergency kit in my house ever since. Believe me, those three items carried by Ming En in the news report are not in my kit. Instead I have the following items:

1. First aid kit and essential medications.

2. Canned food and can opener

3. At least 10 litres of water per person

4. Protective clothing, raincoat, and bedding or sleeping bags

5. Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.


Brisbane had been bracing for the worst flood in a hundred years since Monday last week, when Toowoomba was battered by a torrent of rain that caused an "inland tsunami" of water to cascade cars and other vehicles down the high street. Since then, a creeping flood has risen towards the city itself and infiltrated and inundated farms and houses along its path. Land and livelihoods are ruined, as are the countless kilometres of rail, road and bridge.

As I write, heartbreaking images of residents on their rooftops and their homes inundated in a sea of brown water, are being televised throughout the morning. The breaking news is 12 people have been killed and 45 are still missing in the Queensland flood. For now, as the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh have warned, there are grim days ahead, as the death toll is likely to climb.

Like many Singaporeans and indeed Asians, our thoughts are with the flood-stricken. I hope they can return and rebuild their homes soon.


This post was originally published on A Singaporean Uncle in Australia in January 2011.


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