Thursday, March 01, 2007

orange is the colour of my true love's rust

Less jolly today, very tired and glum.

Book Studio

I've been at the art school all afternoon, documenting and assessing damage, in preparation for tomorrow's start at cleaning up and preparing an insurance report.

The art school is one of the most damaged buildings on the ANU campus, and it will need both a new roof and an overhauled electrical system, not to mention all the smaller stuff like furniture replacement and machine renovations. Nearly all the map cabinets are waterlogged, including the one in the Director's office, full of very valuable works on paper. Yesterday the floors on both levels were shallow pools of water, which were sucked up last night. Today everything is damp, and smells dreadful, especially the (mercifully few) carpeted areas.

There are a small number of blessings; we are only 2 weeks into term, so the students hadn't really moved a lot of their possessions into their spaces, although a few desks had soggy journals and library books on them, which we tried to spread out a bit to dry.

Also there are small miracles: the book studio roof leaked straight down the middle, starting at the tip of the wooden work table (which is peeling and blistered) and finishing at the end of my beautiful letterpress workbench (traditionally called a 'stone', but is metal-topped, and has completely rusted, but is salvageable), but the cascading water missed all the electric appliances at one end and the press at the other. The type cabinets are damp, but not waterlogged, with only two typetrays filled with water as far as I can tell.

rusted stone

There are, however, lots of heartbreaks. The school is full of beautiful artwork by ex-students, much of it damaged. The school has been struggling for some time, and workshop resources like printers and computers and digital cameras have been scrimped and saved for and hard won; it's not sure how much has survived, especially the computers, for which the advice has been to let them dry out and turn them on. Every workshop has post-graduate students who have lost major parts of their research, and every staff member has personal goods in their offices. Those who live in the school flats have a lot of property damage.

And shocks: learning that only the school's assets are insured; no personal possessions are covered, which means that (among many other tragic tales) the poor art theory staff, whose office libraries are mostly of their own books, will have to lump the loss of those books if they are damaged.

We're trying desperately to get the place cleaned up enough for classes to resume on Monday, but whether the actual building will be legally inhabitable is another issue. The other tricky factor is that water is still moving around the building, trickling down from the sogged roof. It's also still raining, at least once a day, and there's every chance that new leaks will spring forth, so damage assessment is ongoing, and we'll have to be vigilant.

It's weird to be part of a community that is very loyal to its environment and dedicated to making a tough situation work out -- as an art school under funding threats is -- and then suddenly have it almost destroyed around us, though no-one's fault. We're all trying to rally, but shoulders have drooped. The next few days -- weeks -- months -- are going to be a very hard slog.


cristy said...

I am so sorry to hear about the damage.

Is a fundraising event being planned to help the school get back on its feet? (I guess everyone has their hands too full at the moment...)

Ampersand Duck said...

That would be a wonderful thing to happen, but yes, energy at the moment is just focused on getting classes started again.

Mick said...

Wow...we were all amazed at the hail, the lightning, the rain and it's only in the aftermath that we see the pain and heartbreak that the storm can bring.

Would have never thought that an hour of a storm could cause so much damage.

Good luck with the salvage..

M-H said...

I'm so sorry to read this. My heart goes out to you all. The losses must feel devastating. I don't know what else to say...

Hil said...

I'm really sorry to hear there was so much damage, and so much work required to get up and running again.

And, I could be wrong about this, but it seems maybe to be one of those cases where, when a system is subjected to continuing lack of proper funding, it only takes an event like this to mean it's much harder to ride out the damage - things get so pared back that there is little margin left to cushion disaster and help recovery.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh, Duck, I am sorry. Ye olde farming background means I've seen what it's like to be at the mercy of the weather and see all your hard work wiped out at a stroke.

I have been known to use a hair dryer to dry out individually flooded things, but it sounds as though running electrical things (especially hand-held ones) might still be a bit of a hazard.

Is someone working on rectifying the insurance situation to make sure this doesn't happen again? Or is there just no money for things like that?

ThirdCat said...

I'm so sorry to read about this. How heartbreaking it must be for you all. Take care of yourselves, won't you?

fluffy said...

This is (quite literally) disastrous. Much strength to you in the big clean up. I dare say you'll be keeping some kind of tarpaulin over your map drawers in the future, and when the kids scoff you'll tell of the great flood of ought seven.


lauren said...

bugger. what a cruddy situation across the board ducky. sending some rollicking good, spritely vibes down canberra way, to get you all through the next little bit.

lucy tartan said...

How dreadful about the insurance - at ANU too of all places. Paper is so horribly vulnerable. Take care of yourself Duck and don't let it get you down. Fluffy is right to talk about how you will look back on this in the future. The poor type trays.

Jellyfish said...

How awful. I always knew fire could cause dreadful damage but never imagined water bringing about such destruction. The bloody extremes in this country!







Hope it works out and I support the call for a fundraiser - maybe a Floodapalooza or WATERAID Concert!

JahTeh said...

If they don't have flood insurance I suppose there's no fire insurance as well which would be crazy in a place with loads of paper.

DV said...

How very heartbreaking. Hope he loss isn't too bad and that not too many tears are shed.

Anonymous said...

it's the humanity eh.less than the stuff affected.
(poor old gorden, what an inauspicious{eh?] begining of the year.)
still youll pull through look back fondly on the hardships and comradery (eh?)chin up. eh what.what

Ampersand Duck said...

heh. O byrd, you do have a way with words...

Rach said...

That's heartbreaking. I second (third?) the calls for a fundraiser. I for one put my hand up to sit in a local shopping centre behind a table full of lamingtons and crocheted coathangers.

girlprinter said...

Oh... so sorry & heartsick to read this. Does Wenol exist here? Very good on rust: I will try to research.