Providing emergency supplies to flood prone areas
Much of eastern Australia, including most of Queensland, was affected by serious floods in January and February 2009. A major impact of flooding can be the loss of essential services and fresh food supplies on which communities depend. Lack of fresh food can result from interruption to electricity supplies and damage to warehouses and stores, or from damage to transport links such as state and national highways.
Following the 2009 floods, there were very limited supplies of fresh meat and vegetables in Cairns. While some dry goods could be shipped to Cairns by sea and air, the flooding of the Bruce Highway halted truck shipments of all types while a shortage of refrigerated containers precluded shipping of fresh and frozen food by sea. Major retail food outlets in central Cairns thus had very limited or no supplies of fresh meat and vegetables. Electrical services to businesses and homes were disrupted.
This experience raises questions about priorities in the provision of emergency services to communities that have been isolated by flooding, especially in the light of the potential for changed frequency and/or intensity of cyclonic events in northern Australia due to climate change. Cairns was identified as a potential case study for a cost-benefit analysis of the use of private sector logistics, possibly with some government subsidy, to meet this challenge.
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