Bushfire, flood and storm insurance claims cost hundreds of millions

Bushfire, flood and storm insurance claims cost hundreds of millions

09 February 2013

published by www.news.com.au

Australia — FLOOD, bushfire and storm victims have swamped insurance companies with 65,000 damage claims worth $674 million this summer.

And the Federal Government has spent $76m on emergency payments to victims, data shows.

The Insurance Council of Australia yesterday predicted more claims in the next fortnight, with a chance of more wild weather on the way.

“Many parts of Australia have not yet reached the peak of their local disaster seasons, and more cyclones, flood and bushfires remain a strong possibility,” chief executive Rob Whelan said.

Insurers so far have fielded 65,000 claims from four catastrophes across three states this summer.

Queensland’s floods and storm damage triggered 53,711 claims for $553 million in damage.

The Insurance Council will host a public “insurance forum” to be attended by representatives of insurance companies, the Financial Ombudsman Service and Queensland Legal Aid in Bundaberg on February 20.

In NSW, flood and storm victims from Grafton, the Tweed and Northern River regions have lodged 8000 claims for damage totalling $20m.

Mr Whelan said flood mitigation in Grafton had “done its job” and saved the town from a Bundaberg-scale disaster.

“This again highlights the importance of investing in physical mitigation measures, such as levees, dams, barrages and drainage work, where it is feasible to do so,” he said.

“A relatively small investment to build a levee around a mid-size town may be recouped many times over the life of a levee.”

Bushfire victims in NSW’s Coonabarabran region have lodged 1500 claims for $12 million.

And Tasmania’s bushfires have triggered 1900 claims for $89 million.

The federal minister assisting on Queensland’s flood recovery, Joe Ludwig, yesterday said more than $20 million in disaster payments had been deposited into the bank accounts of 19,000 flood-affected residents in Bundaberg.

In total, the Federal Government has spent $76 million on emergency payments this summer, the Attorney-General’s Department said yesterday.

The figure includes $66 million for Queensland flood and storm victims and $7.1million for Tasmania’s bushfire victims.

Centrelink pays $1000 for eligible adults and $400 for children to help meet short-term recovery costs.

Workers, small business operators and farmers who lose income as a direct result of a disaster can also receive the equivalent of Newstart allowance for 13 weeks.

Mr Whelan said insurance companies had anticipated the high volume of claims.

“This summer’s fire and flood risk had largely been anticipated and factored into commercial, prudential and logistical preparations,” he said.

News Ltd revealed on Monday that the Insurance Council has told a Senate inquiry that governments need to ban new housing in flood and bushfire zones, and stop the construction of “brittle buildings”.

The council warned that Australians living in danger zones where they can no longer afford or even find insurance will have to “move, mitigate or modify”.


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