Brisbane floods in retreat

The flood clean-up begins as the river retreats.

The swollen Brisbane River has dropped to 2.7 metres and emotions are running high as residents start returning home to survey the damage caused by yesterday’s flood peak.

About 26,000 homes had either major or partial flooding when the river peaked at 4.46 metres.

Weather bureau senior hydrologist Jess Carey says the river system has fallen to 2.7 metres but will rise again to about 2.85 metres this morning.

“It’s certainly been dropping fast. It’s been expected,” he said.

He says the Bremer River is also falling quickly at Ipswich where 3,000 homes were flooded.

Many people are returning to their homes, but some 65,000 homes and businesses in the south-east are still without electricity – most of those are in the Brisbane area.

Campbell Newman says it will take about two years to clean up.

I heard that bus travel is going to be free and many work places are resuming operations.

Today marks the beginning of a new phase in Brisbane and surrounds.

The earlier thread is here.

63 thoughts on “Brisbane floods in retreat”

  1. Best of luck to anyone who needs to find a plasterer or painter to repair their water-logged house. It’ll be a longer waiting list than for elective root canal in a public dental hospital.

  2. While others have mentioned on previous thread..what a remarkable effort from mark and brian with these threads..thank you very much…I have been able to direct international friends with concerns and interest to this site as a reference and jumping off point…all of them have commented on how useful it is, and I for one have found this site to be as and in some cases more useful than the ABC on-line service (altho ABC local radio has also done a fantastic job and once again proved the need for a publicly owned and professionally run broadcaster…take heed those who argue for its sale….).

  3. I think the clean up will be harder than the flood for many people. And thanks to Brian and Mark for all their up to date info.

    Yes, Eric Sykes, I wish people actually valued the full range of things the ABC does because they’re the government owned broadcaster.

    Meanwhile, the rain is bucketing down in Melbourne in solidarity with our Northern friends.

  4. long live the ABC. Its moments like these we realise its value.
    Now, if its too early to bring politics into this commenters can just tell me to sod off the thread, and I will quite cheerfully. But does anyone else think it was more than passing strange that right now, Campbell Newman is sudden;y calling for a judicial enquiry into the floods, as reported by ABC TV News Channel (watching it on line)earlier this morning, when hitherto he has been admirably apolitical in his handling of the flood crisis, as has the ALP and other parties. So, what changed? Well, guess who rocked into Brisbane yesyerday to give him his riding instructions. You guessed it – the Honourable Tony Abbott.Seems they’re hoping for a repeat of the Vic. Bushfire Enquiry, but this time on floods, to ride to state (and Federal?) victory on in Queensland.
    The recovery period will be much harder for Bligh politically, but after her masterful performance during the floods I’m sure she’ll come through with bells on. At least, as a distant observer from NSW, I hope so. She deserves it.

  5. The latest toll is 15 dead, 55 still missing and I think grave concerns for about 12 of those.

    I imagine that most of these missing persons were connected with those communities what were obliterated by flash floods.

    If they happened to survive or if they were out of town at the time it is likely that they would have made contact, especially in light of the blanket media coverage given to their little communities.

    Thus, I would suggest that “grave concerns” being held for only 12 of those 55 unaccounted-for understates the case.

    I was impressed by the good humour and stoicism of Queenslanders when interviewed by the media.

    Can anyone explain where Kevin Rudd was taking that piece of luggage he was filmed carrying on his head?

  6. Katz,
    I’m not sure where Rudd was taking the luggage, but it apparently belonged to students in his electorate who had no way of moving their gear. I imagine to higher ground? After that he was going from door to door helping his constituents.
    I would imagine Ian McFarlane was/is doing similar things in Toowoomba. He just hasn’t been reported on yet.

  7. I managed to stay dry and safe, and I’m now back at the control panel. Thanks to all those who wished me well on Tuesday and Wednesday.

  8. I wouldn’t be reading any conspiracies into what Newman has said, not yet anyway. After all, any inquiry might well conclude that the Brisbane City Council’s planning was deficient, such as by allowing dense development in flood-prone areas.

  9. I wonder what the future prospects are now for development proposals like this one?

    Oh, and a new blog of photos, if anyone’s interested.

    Still no power here in my corner of East Brisbane, seven metres above the 1893 flood height and 270 metres away from the closest floodwaters of 2011. This is the first time ever that this little part of Brisbane has suffered a power cut due to floodwaters.

  10. Good luck with the cleanup everyone.

    thanks also to the site administrators for keeping me/us up to date

    for those in Melbourne there is a Hip hop benefit for flood relief at the Corner Hotel tonight, i don’t know any of the bands appearing. there is another benefit at The Corner next week with Missy Higgins and Tim Rodgers among others.

  11. Paul Burns @5, assisted by the arch whinger Clive Palmer, no doubt. I hope this tactic backfires in a major way on them, which could happen, judging by the response to Clive Palmer’s whinging about Emergency Services and the Bligh government.

    How can you have a judicial enquiry into a weather system which dumped metres of rain in a relatively short time? It’s not like it’s a common occurrence and it may never happen again.

    From where I sit several states away, the emergency has been handled very well-very few deaths, very few missing and a community spirit second to none. Queenslanders can rightly give themselves a huge pat on the back.

    There are no doubt some lessons to be gleaned from this extraordinary deluge; councils and government should not be railroaded into allowing developers to build huge developments on unsuitable sites, for example.

    Paul Norton, glad all is well.

  12. Paul @ 5 and Jane @ 14.

    Yes. One notes John Paul Langbreok as well getting stuck in yesterday and scaremongering around cut off residents in Mogill. Of course they are having a terrible time, no food or power for 4 days…et al. But it is a disaster, and clearly in a disaster any government has to make choices and prioritise it’s resources. Bligh was very clear this morning that these residents had not been “forgotten” as is the claim.

  13. Today’s OO carries a risible op-ed by Barry York, and a less flaky piece by Scott Prasser which nonetheless invludes the following highly problematic statement:

    Then there is the issue of dams. We can all be thankful that after the 1974 flood the then Coalition government built the Wivenhoe Dam despite protests from the environmental lobby and others.

    I think I know my Queensland environmental movement history reasonably well, and I am not aware that there were any protests of any significance against the construction of Wivenhoe Dam from any significant section of the environmental movement. Nor have I found any information to this effect by googling I would be much obliged if Queenslanders of longer standing such as Brian, HAL9000 and others can shed any light on this.

  14. I don’t think the call for an enquiry is a bad thing.

    It certainly seems that everyone did exceptionally well. But no matter how well you respond in a disaster no response is ever perfect. There is always room for improvement.

    We always debrief, even after a call out to a grassfire that takes 2 minutes to extinguish. Often nothing needs to be said so we sit around at the local shop for local people and have a beer after we clean up, and have a laugh about what happened.

    But if something does need to be said then the semi formal thing that takes place after the event, while we are still in uniform and smelling like smoke, makes it easier to examine things on their merits. Sometimes we expose things that could be in an issue if it all goes pear shaped.

    Now in an event as public as this that needs something like an enquiry to examine it. imo anyway. In an event as public as this people who were affected will need an equivalent to the semi formal debriefs all fire crews (and I assume everone else in similar roles _ SES, ambos, cops, soldiers etc etc) get as a matter of course.

    It seems to me that’ll give the public the contact with the examination of what happened. If its done well it could avoid some of the problems that came with the media circus around Black friday.

    One thing those weirdos just over the border ๐Ÿ˜‰ seem to have done is apply many of the lessons of Black Saturday 09 that were applicable to their situation. If people (as in this blog, letters to editors etc) keep on the media in Qld then there is a fair chance the enquiry could be a good thing.

    There will be things that could be done better. So long as people keep things in perspective then it could be good for the public to be aware and understand whats needed in managing a disaster like this. People tend to forget that disasters are by definition unmanageable.

    The fact that Qld authorities pulled of something that really does resemble maintaining some control in utter chaos needs recognition. If the public had a better idea of what was involved they may be less inclined to respond to dog whistles.

    Especially, for example, when the details of the actual dam management at Wivenhoe come out. That looks like it was actually an excellent performance. Given those people were operating in a situation where for a while they had no idea what they would be dealing with in a few days.

    And lets not forget at least 12 people, maybe more have died.

    I think its only fair that a judicial enquiry establishes whether it was possible to have prevented that. Its a bit different to someone dying in a dam while swimming, or one person crossing a flooded creek and getting washed away.

    If people keep a sensible attitude about the enquiry and keep pressure on the media not to behave like idiots then it should be fine, and I imagine thats an easier thing to do in Brissie than Melbourne, cos the place still has the feel of a small town in some ways. Like people are connected by fewer degrees of seperation.

  15. Does anyone know how bad musgrave road, coopers plain is? what was the water level approx if affected? i have all my home items in storage at walkers and cannot get any information if the area was affected.

    any information will be appreciated

  16. Paul N, and terangeree (despite no power), I’m glad to hear you are both ok.

    Remember when you are cleaning up watch out for snakes, spiders and toxic stuff, I imagine that in particular is heaps worse in Brissie than round here. I have helped someone do some fencing but thats it – we aren’t looking at the sort of modern garbage you guys will have everywhere in this part of the world.

    Wear gloves long sleeves and long tough trousers/jeans if you still have access to them. And have access to antiseptics if you can. It might sound like a pain but they will protect from the sort of cuts and scratches you might not notice that then get exposed to dirty water.

    (There is nothing as frustrating, from a firey’s POV of seeing people at fires in shorts and singlets. Or hearing the figures wrt people with serious burns to their arms and legs cos their skin was exposed or they were wearing plastic. I can see a potential for similar problems in this situation.

    Your friendly disaster nanny – jules. BTW Sorry if it sounds patronising to say all this stuff when you already know it, but some people may not know. And for me thats one of those unknown unknowns or something.)

    Good luck with the clean up.

  17. I dont know how calling for a Royal Commission is a political exercise. I think it’s probably more of an option to try and find ut what could be done better next time to try and stop the devastation caused by these things.

    btw does anyone elso wonder why, with the exodus of rain that was predicted, they didnt start letting water out of Wivenhoe earlier to leave more mitigation capacity? Just a thought! Perhaps the recent drought and memories of dam levels at 17% scared them off it.

  18. PN,terangaree, and to everybody else who has survived the floods without serious injury,good to see you all slowly resurfacing. Though I’m not sure resurfacing is the appropriate verb. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Be careful in the clean up, especially round the sludge. And don’t wear thongs. Put on some sturdy shoes. Good luck for what is going to be a very difficult few months.

  19. Jacques, that must be because the mods here did such a damned good job of keeping us up to date with what was going on…Really guys, fabulous work..

  20. Terangeree do you happen to know how far up Montague Rd the floodwater came or know of any photos from West End? I used to live there, not far from Orleigh Park, when I was at Uni and the tumbledown place is still there – I went back a couple of months ago. It was on its own little knoll with a high retaining wall so it may have kept its feet dry. I hope so.

  21. “How can you have a judicial enquiry into a weather system which dumped metres of rain in a relatively short time? Itโ€™s not like itโ€™s a common occurrence and it may never happen again.’

    The enquiry would be into the response to the event Jane and issues of infrastructure/planning etc relating to its impact. It wouldn’t actually be into the rain falling itself.

    There’s invariably an afer-the-event enquiry into major natural disasters in Australia – mainly so we can learn from the experience and respond more effectively if/when similar challenges present.

  22. Paul Norton, it would be interesting to know the scope of protests against the Wivenhoe dam. I glimpsed some old footage of dam protesters on TV last night (I wasn’t really watching) but I don’t know if it was actually Wivenhoe or stock footage. It looks like they’re gearing up to blame the green movement for this.

  23. Thanks Peter, if Alberto’s Cafe was Ok (from the video comments) then our place which was just a block up on the corner of Forbes St would have been fine. (Hello current residents of 451, glad you seem to be OK)

  24. Jacques, that must be because the mods here did such a damned good job of keeping us up to date with what was going on

    LP definitely works as a good liveblog. Whenever something big is unfolding (Election nights, Rudd getting deposed, the floods) the big purple machine seems to be a rallying point for the progressive crowd. I just like that it ran smoothly for the whole time.

  25. It will be interesting if the calls for a judicial enquiry become reality. Will they subpoena God? Would they dare to request him/her to swear on a Bible? How on earth do you ask an invisible (possibly imaginery) object questions about why they permitted such weather events to occur? Where does the concept of freewill fit in when ascribing blame? Perhaps Tony Abbott or George Pell will be sworn in as a representative of God. Evidence in rebuttal will also need to be called from those who do not believe in deities.

    The Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission had the appearance of bias from the very start and acted with the benefit of hindsight. Perhaps could have done better if they had been able to subpoena a higher authority.

  26. Geoff Honnor @25, I take your point, but they would still have to take into account the weather system that caused the damage, I would have thought.

    From what I’ve been reading here and elsewhere, the response of all agencies and the government has been first class, considering the magnitude of the disaster.

    Scrutiny of decisions to build large developments on unsuitable land should definitely be on the agenda. I understand developers have gone to court to reverse decisions by councils and state governments in respect of planning approval.

    So it would be good to see that sort of thing curtailed, particularly in light of the insurance situation emerging now.

    Unfortunately, when natural occurrences such as floods are infrequent, people tend to take a punt that it will never happen, but occasionally it does turn around and bite you on the bum.

    Like a professional fisherman we know who failed to insure his boat, which promptly smashed into the rocks on KI and was a write off. He had borrowed heavily to buy the thing, so we were astonished that the lender hadn’t insisted on insurance cover.

    I feel very sorry for those who insured their houses, but didn’t realise that flood damage is not included.

    I think that what is not included as an insurable risk should be spelled out in the plainest possible terms when buying a policy, because people can be bamboozled easily. Like fusion, if you have refrigeration and pumps.

    @30, I’d say that is going to be the drumbeat of the RWDB media. No doubt, the ABC will also crank up the rhetoric now that water levels are dropping and the immediate danger is over.

    They have to apportion blame, no matter that we have no control over the weather and it’s not possible to prepare for every contingency.

    However, it sickens me that these people use a situation like this to push their political barrow.

    The victims don’t need all that shite, they’ve got more than enough to deal with as they face the heartbreaking task of cleaning up, counting the financial and emotional cost and grieving for their communities and friends and relatives who may have died.

    @33, very interesting point, mediatracker. Maybe God will smite them with a mighty smite, or something inventive and fun to watch, like cleaving their tongues to the roof of their mouths and blowing up their key boards, because he’s getting sick of being dragged into these tings. Sigh!

  27. Hello, as a builder myself, I would like to put forward a little bit of advice. especially to those without insurance.
    This advice is mainly based for people with newer homes and more importantly,people that are abled.
    For people with internal plasterboard. Cut plasterboard between 50 to a 150mm higher than the high water mark. tear/rip all the water damaged plasterboard of including skirtings. Architraves: take of in full height lengths “right up to the top of door or linnen etc. making sure to run a knife along the edge of the architrave to prevent ripping/pealing of the paint.Most importantly: try to get rid of any mud/silt that is/was trapped inside the wall. Main reason for this is that flood mud smells, and remains to cast a bad wet stale smell for months to come.
    It is also to be noted that any moisture inside plasterboard will continiue to rise, even when you are not aware of it. eventually this will cause mould and other nastys. therefore don’t hesitate to cut it a fair bit higher than the high water mark. personally i would go a 150mm as mentioned before. If at all possible, try to dry out the inside of the walls. fans are a good aid.
    I would also like to say to leave wet areas alone (bathrooms, showers “some laundrys”) at this stage. as these products are designed to get wet “within reason” and more importantly are very costly to replace.
    In conclusion.
    This will not solve all problems. but it will be a good start.
    Hope my expertise will be to some benifit to someone.
    Thank you and good luck.
    cheers.
    Nanobuild.

  28. The royal commission was an OZ beat-up. Both Bligh and Newman were separately talking sense on the box tonight. Both recogize the need for some sort of review. Bligh was saying she didn’t want to think about what sort of inquiry while she was busy with the current statewide problems.

  29. If there had of been a Coalition government, Tones would have stopped the boats, ended the waste and organised an ark with no new taxes for any of us.

  30. On the call for a Royal Commission, I think Campbell Newman was only responding to a reporter’s question. As John D said, both he and Bligh have handled themselves well.

    Paul Norton @ 16, I can’t recall Wivenhoe being at all controversial.

    Melissa @ 18, don’t know how bad Musgrave road, Coopers Plains is.

    Jamo @ 20, they have been releasing water from Wivenhoe from some time. But there is no reason to release water to below 100% of the domestic use compartment on the basis of only weather forecasts. That’s effectively what Barnaby Joyce was saying. Build dams, which can then be used for electricity generation and irrigation, but which are somehow magically and conveniently empty when the flood begins.

    My impression is that the release of water was handled quite superbly, which no doubt limited the flooding.

    BTW the flood was almost 50% from the Bremer River, which enters the Brisbane River below Wivenhoe.

    They are going to try to get it back down to 100% before next Friday when there is a large king tide expected, but only to the extent that the water stays within the banks of the river.

  31. They found a body washed 80 kilometers down river today. They had 200 people searching 200km of river. It’s totally possible that some will never be found.

    BTW there was a story of an actual coffin floating down the river. this didn’t come from an undertaker. Apparently it was used in some party stunt that got caught up in the flood.

  32. There’s been a lot of complaining from the people out at Bellbowrie, who along with those in Moggill and Karana Downs, have been cut off without power or telephone, no food and gas for cooking running out. The army were out there today atking food in via helicopter.

    They say that trunk roads are now open but some supermarkets won’t be stocked for perhaps a week. It doesn’t help the the Rocklea markets were still under water today.

  33. I work for some people out at Sherwood who back onto the river. The parents are on a trip to Antarctica and perhaps don’t even know it’s been raining here. There son, a recently graduated engineer is looking after the place.

    He reckons they were within a whisker of having water in the ground floor. The back lawn has been top-dressed with a swathe of mud. The main excitement was the the boat and the pontoon disappeared. He’d managed to attach the boat firmly with a chain but it got wiped out be a bigger boat with pontoon attached from upstream. The chain broke and that was that.

    Until today the police rang and said would he come and pick up his boat from Redcliffe (a bay suburb for those who don’t know.)

  34. On a personal level, thanks for the compliments. Mark said the the blog statistics topped the election and the ousting of Rudd. So something’s working.

    Mark was back at work today, delivered and retrieved by me. Ashgrove was in gridlock, as people are starting to move about and both Coronation Drive and Milton Road are still out. So the traffic is taking a virtual ring route through Ashgrove.

    The power is still out at New Farm, so we are still entertaining the three refugees. And entertaining it is, to be sure.

    I checked in with the doctor and the cellulitis in my ankle is persisting. I’ve got a new antibiotic, but if that doesn’t work I’ll have to front up to the infectious diseases unit up at St Andrews. It’s not bothering me much and is almost asymptomatic, but it’s still there.

  35. Nanobuild, I’m bookmarking this thread for your comment alone. My family in Brisbane were unaffected by these floods but I’m sure I will need to revisit your comment in the future.

  36. Today there were four points around the city where people could assemble and then be bussed to places where they could help to clean up. One was the Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens. We drove past today and the response was huge. Cars parked everywhere.

    I believe they are saying now they will only need people with special skills.

  37. Brian, my special skill is grating on people and rubbing them up the wrong way on Facebook and internet comment threads. Do you think they will require much of that? Will they have special internetz accezz pointz so I can exercise my mad skillz? I hope so.

    Failing that, maybe they need some Java programs designed and written or perhaps an assessment of Roman historiography?

    These are all the post-apocolyptic skills I have to offer. I hope they can be useful!

  38. Brian, fingers crossed the new antibiotics work.

    I hope there are clear skies and mild weather for the clean up. I heard that there are army personnel helping with cleaning up.

    I feel so sorry for all those who have lost family, friends and their homes. They are in people’s thoughts everywhere.

    It’s pizza night at our pub tonight and they’re donating a percentage of the profits to the flood relief fund. Tomorrow there will be a bbq fundraiser at the oval.

    We have Victorian friends who holiday here every summer to go cray and scale fishing, who are worried about how they’ll get home now the Wimmera is closed.

    Mother Nature showing us who’s boss, I suppose.

  39. I will reiterate something I wrote on FB earlier – and I do so without denigrating the enormity of the QLD floods (especially Toowoomba and Lockyer Valley in terms of loss of life).

    There are other parts of Australia that are also affected. The agricultural areas of the Gascoyne region of WA have been effectively wiped out. Victoria’s western region (take it as a line from Echuca to Melbourne) is in similar difficulties (at least two doses – September 2010 and January 2011). Parts of TAS are in trouble. Lots of NSW has been having grief for 2+ months.

    Is it possible to look on this as a national emergency?

  40. Brian thanks for keeping LP going, I had expected that you would run out of power.

    Hope your cellulitus is receding. I had it before Xmas and thought it would never go away but it has gone after I slowed down, got plenty of sleep and ate well. It was caused by tinea so I have started to take care of my skin and use a hairdryer to dry my feet.

  41. Fiona @ 48.
    I think that might seep into the national consciousness in a day or two. Even more important is its going to come back again and again before March in different parts of the country.

  42. @Fiona Reynolds,
    I hope your endeavours to find an appropriate local charity/activist group to donate your stuff to works out.

    To others I suggest keeping an eye on your local entertainment nights – many performers will be donating their services to fundraiser/benefit nights in the wake of the floods – it’s a quid pro quo – if you can have a good night out and benefit charity at the same time, why the hell not?

  43. And, of course, the waters that flooded Toowoomba at the beginning of the week will next week be flooding NW NSW before going down to the Murray River and eventually to South Australia.

    Methinks this particular flood will be a longrunning saga…

    Not to mention the of Severe TC Zelia.

  44. Re cellulitis, thanks for the best wishes. I find there are quite a few people who have never heard of it, which was my situation about five years ago when I got my first dose.

    OTOH a surprising number have had it.

    I was talking to my brother who lives in Kenmore. His version of the ‘Kenmore incident’ was that the supermarket was short-staffed because staff members couldn’t get in to work. This led to large queues at the check-out. Some people started abusing the staff. It wasn’t their fault.

    Other people defended the staff, which inflamed the complainers to the extent that someone called the police.

    The police duly arrived, decided they had other things more important to do and advised management to close the store.

  45. My brother and his son yesterday went down to a local area which got flooded early from flash flooding in the creek to see whether anyone needed help. They found an Indian woman who was alone and socially isolated. Other people had been there earlier and they were joined by a couple from Bardon and another all the way from Redlands who had also come looking to help.

    So 7 people were working on the cleanup, which was pretty much completed yesterday.

  46. Terangeree, no need to be alarmed about TC Zelia for SEQ. Been watching her since her ‘surprise’ inception over near Willis Island. She is doing a rapid exit towards NZ as BoM predicted, once they got a handle on her, and will fizz out in cooler waters. However, the wet season is not over yet, we have enormous amount of energy in both the Coral Sea and the Indian Ocean as indicated by the Indian Ocean Dipole and massive La Nina. I have been alarmed by this setup since spring and there is still plenty of action to be had before the summer is over. In fact two models are predicting now for a cyclone to be formed near Townsville within a few days.

    Also while up thread other flooding events where mentioned within Australia, think of the loss in Brazil and Sri Lanka.

  47. Fast facts on the Queensland floods.

    Earlier I said that volunteers with special skills were now mainly required. It seems this is wrong, for now at least. Still general cleanup work to be done.

    Also the City Council says that it won’t do a complete sweep of picking up rubbish in streets at least once until next Sunday.

  48. Attached to this article in the Courier Mail there is a graphic showing previous high flood levels. It included:

    In 1841 there was a flood of 8.4m.

    In 1844 – 7m.

    In 1890 – 5.3m.

    In 1893 – 8.3m.

  49. @SU,

    Do you have the power back on yet??

    I live on Montague Road as well. Wasn’t flooded but have been without power since Wednesday.

  50. Just to cheer you all up a very little bit. This story comes from the SMH and ABC, but I’m unable to link with it because my connection kept timing out on both sites so many people were clicking on it.
    Its a story from the Victorian floods. From the little I could gather on the entry in Google News a nineteen year old girl had to be rescued by police because she was surfing down the Yarra River on an inflatable sex doll. Now, apart from being incredibly amazing, doesn’t that lift the spirits just that little bit?

  51. Paul, if she did that in Brisbane the cops would probably charge her for being a public nuisance!

    I’ve just heard that the Wivenhoe flood gates have been closed. There will be releases as required, however, and we are expecting a king tide on Friday.

    There is a line of storms approaching right now.

  52. Sorry, John Milton I didn’t express myself very clearly, I lived on Montague Rd quite a long time ago, but I was back in the area only a couple of months ago and was delighted to see that the place we lived in was unchanged. I was just glad that the people who now live there were spared. I hope you are back on the grid now.

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