This fortnight I've been gripped by the news. Not by news of Brexit, Russia or whatever crass rhetoric that came out of the mouth of the malfunction that is Donald Trump, but by news coming out of Australia.
Last week, Tropical Cyclone Debbie (the largest since Yasi in 2011) made contact with Hamilton Islands, just off the coast of Queensland, and since then the Category 4 disaster has caused evacuations and destruction of parts of Mackay, Airlie Beach and Proserpine, severe flooding in parts of lower Queensland, northern New South Wales (which forced the closure of parts of Brisbane's CBD) and parts of New Zealand's North Island. Currently, the death toll sits at 6, though that is expected to rise as recovery and restoration begin. Even cities initially unaffected by the cyclone are about to become affected, with the city of Rockhampton under a flooding crisis as a backlog of cyclone rainwater surges through the river (it's expected to park at 9am tomorrow, at time of writing).
There are a few reasons why I've been so much more fixated on this than other events of the week, firstly being that I've been to a few of the affected areas. Logan Reserve, a place that I considered home for 7 weeks of 2012, is so flooded that a lot of my friends can't go into work or even leave their homes in some cases.
In addition to that, and perhaps more selfishly, it's put a few of my travel plans under a question mark. Me and a few mates were due to do a road trip next week around the North Island, however news coming through that the remains of Debbie (no longer a cyclone) have caused evacuations in destinations Wellington, Whanganui and towns near Whakatane, as well as landslides and road closures elsewhere on the island, have added an air of uncertainly to the trip.
As for my current place of residence, the last two days have seen torrential rain, loud enough at work for me to hear it over my music, and the walk home on Tuesday night was both difficult and soggy.
The source of most of my stress is not, however, due to nostalgic memories or wet laundry, but more the thought of people I've met on my travels who are affected by this. I've spent a lot of the last days of March thinking about Elsa, Maice and even my ex, Shannon, who are stuck in Brisbane. I think of Jari and Henry and wonder if Noosa has been affected at all. I worry of Emma, someone I've not spoken to in 4 years who (last I heard) lives in Mackay, and Liana up in the Bay of Plenty region.
It's a sobering moment when you realize just how many people are left in the wake of one of these events. Just last month I had a few friends living in Airlie Beach before they returned home to various points in Europe. What would have happened if they had stayed a little longer?
Perhaps this is the downside to travelling. You get to meet so many people from all walk of life, which inadvertently creates a much larger net to catch anxieties and empathy. That's a scary thing. When one of these freak phenomenons of nature occur, you begin to realize that numbers in a statistic are so much more than that.As someone who lives in the UK, I'd heard NOTHING about Cyclone Debbie, so I'd like to thank AJ for raising my awareness about something so terrible.
If you missed last week's Travel Thursday, you can catch up here.