More than 20 people have died as a result of the severe floods that occurred in Queensland and New South Wales after two weeks of heavy rain, and thousands of homes and businesses have been damaged. Flash floods are a disaster that no one wants to experience, including those who live in flood prone areas and are used to typhoons. It's something the world can do without but unfortunately has to live with.
Whether or not you have lost something to flood waters at some point in your life, you will find this article useful in protecting yourself and your community from the impact of floods and extreme weather events.
How does severe flooding affect us?
Flooding disasters can have a significant impact on the health of affected communities. Extreme floods can contain toxic chemicals and microorganisms that can cause serious illness or death. People who come into contact with floodwaters are at risk of contracting diseases, such as:
- Dysentery and other gastrointestinal illnesses
- Typhoid fever
- Skin infections
- Respiratory infections
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Bites from slithering snakes in the floodwaters
- Malaria, West Nile virus, and other mosquito-borne diseases
There is also a risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. In addition, floods can damage homes and infrastructure, which can lead to displacement and homelessness. This can increase the risk of mental health problems such as anxiety, trauma, phobia and depression.
What kind of help can be given to victims of flood events?
A forecast of heavy rainfall should alert people to the possibility of flash floods. When preparing evacuation centres, food packages, medicines and drinking water supplies for potential victims, keep an eye on low-lying areas, which are always at risk of flooding.
People who have been affected by a food disaster will need a range of help, including:
- Medical assistance
- Clean drinking water
- Psychological support
- Financial assistance
- Rebuilding their homes and communities
There are a number of organisations that can provide advice and support to people who have been affected by floods.
It will take time for victims of urban flooding or other types of floods to recover, but any assistance you can provide will alleviate their suffering and give them hope. Even if they are not accustomed to major floods, Australians can benefit from flood safety education. The government should consider antecedent weather conditions that caused flash flooding, such as the 2011 rain bomb that dumped 400 millimetres of rain on Brisbane City. Climate change is without a doubt a major contributor to higher-than-average rainfall. Taking the appropriate steps to educate people and address this issue can help reduce flood risk.
Besides providing flood victims with their material needs, providing them with immediate cultural services is also paramount. This will restore hope and confidence in them amidst the losses in ecosystem services, which is one of the negative impacts of extreme flooding events.
How to protect yourself from the health risks associated with floods
You can protect yourself and your loved ones from the health risks associated with floods by following some simple tips:
- Avoiding contact with floodwaters
- Keeping clean water available
- Practising good hygiene
- Keeping abreast of news from the national weather service
Understanding the cause of the overland flow of water after torrential rains is also critical. This will help in anticipating, if not preventing, excessive water level increases. Many factors, in addition to excessive rain, contribute to the risk of flood. Clogged drains are the most common cause of urban flooding, but ruptured dams, snowmelt and river floods can also occur and have devastating effects on people's lives.
People who have been affected by a flood disaster can recover from the experience with the help of family, friends and community support. It is important to seek professional help if you are experiencing anxiety, depression or any other mental health problem. If you live in any of the areas affected by the worst floods, spare yourself from its negative impacts. Anyone who has been affected by flooding can get assistance and support from many different organisations.