There are hundreds of different stories about the recent floods at the moment, and so far, it seems the majority of media reports have found a positive angle – showing the great lengths people have gone to help others.
The horrific disaster appears to inspire the philanthropist in us all and it’s been fantastic to see individuals and businesses do their part in assisting the victims of the disaster. I guess the reason that I say this, is that reporting of disasters can be very negative.
Journalists want to find a unique story angle that will stand out from their competitors coverage, and often the more sensational a story is, the more it will sell. This means that any mistakes that take place (particularly by those in government) during a natural disaster / crisis are likely to be noticed, highlighted and reported on by a journalist.
Case in point – George Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina. He was publicly criticised about his response (or lack of) to the Hurricane Katrina disaster which struck in 2005.
When something goes wrong, it seems as though people want someone to blame (even if it’s a natural disaster) and in this case Bush definitely set himself up for failure.
The Queensland Floods on the other hand have proven (in my opinion) to be very well managed. The QLD premier Anna Bligh (who probably hasn’t slept for weeks) has been extremely responsive, with constant updates and press conferences. One of Australia’s most prominent bloggers, Mia Freedman (Mama Mia) has even professed her love for Anna Bligh (see here), showing that when handled well, a natural disaster doesn’t have to be all negative.
A lot of companies have also taken action, with many donating profits, holding fundraisers or donating products to the victims.
While one can’t deny that this is a good thing, there has been the occasional negative story about companies trying to profit / benefit from the floods (such as Bing Lee running a facebook promotion to raise funds, which was quickly quashed by consumers). This reflects the fine line between offering genuine support and being too opportunistic in a disaster.
There’s nothing wrong with a company donating funds to important causes, but when sales become involved the motivation is questionable.
Having said all this, all the amazing stories I’ve been reading have made me extremely proud to be Australian.
What I’d like people to remember however, is that disasters occur every day, all over the world. Perhaps we should be as considerate of international disasters as we are of crises in our own backyard.
When the Pakistan floods hit last year for example, over 1400 people were killed and over 3 million people affected.
By comparison, the Queensland floods have affected 200,000 people and the death toll is currently 18 (see SMH report here).
While one can’t deny that both are horrible disasters, it does put things into perspective.
It will take a long time for things to return to normal in flood-affected areas, but hopefully the media will continue to report on the floods in the months ahead to keep it top of mind for Australians and maintain ongoing support for the victims.
If you haven’t done it already donate to the QLD Premier’s Flood Relief – http://www.qld.gov.au/emergency/emergencies-services/help-disaster.html