January 7th, 2011
06:53 AM ET

Demonstrating the Deluge

Getty Images

 It's the size of France and Germany combined. It's the size of Texas. It's the size of Egypt.

All impressive facts to convey the scale of the flooding affecting northeastern Australia. But comparisons like these – thrown casually into a broadcast script – are now so commonplace that (in the words of an episode of Cougar Town I watched last night) the news becomes white noise. We work in TV, so we have a duty not just to tell people how big a floodzone is; we have a duty to show them.

News Stream prides itself on the strength of its visuals. And visuals are key when telling a story like the Queensland floods.

At the moment, floodwaters in places like the city of Rockhampton have reached a peak and have – give or take a few centimeters – remained at that peak for three days. They're expected to remain there for another week. It's safe to assume life is getting worse for the hundreds of people who've been displaced. Frustration, anger and exhaustion are sure to be on the increase.

But the numbers, the comparisons and the extremities in this story are going nowhere. So it's up to us as writers, producers and newsgatherers to take our output forward in an engaging way.

Thursday's News Stream offered an example of this. We've seen countless aerial shots captured from the skies above Rockhampton, Bundaberg and elsewhere. But we hadn't yet seen the view from further up. Thanks to our friends at NASA, we were able to demonstrate what three weeks of record rainfall looks like from space.

Here's the view of the Fitzroy River Basin on December 14:


And here's the same view on January 4:


There. That probably conveys more than saying something's the same size as somewhere half the world away, doesn't it?

But if you're going to do comparisons from space, it's pertinent to show how the situation has changed from a Queenslander's perspective.

We were fortunate that CNN meteorologist Mari Ramos drew our attention to a particularly eyecatching example.  The image below may look like your average estate agent web page, advertising a two-storey home in need of a spot of repair. "Roll up your sleeves," the site advises prospective buyers. "There's work to be done."

 Now have a look at this shot from Getty Images, taken this week:

Getty Images

As we stated on News Stream, the website might want to consider changing its health warning to "Roll up your trouser legs. There's even more work to be done".

The home described as being "a stone's throw from the Fitzroy River" has now found itself in the middle of it.

A useful exercise in comparison and a sobering depiction of the human cost of the Queensland floods, rolled into one.

Tune into News Stream today at 9pm Hong Kong, to see (and hear!) where we take the story next.

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Filed under: General • News Stream ephemera • Space
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