DAILY NEWS Jan 10, 2013 1:17 PM - 0 comments

Bushfires in Australia destroy properties, claims approach $50 million

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2013-01-10

The Insurance Council of Australia has updated its preliminary data on claims resulting from bushfires, estimating losses in Tasmania alone at about 49 million Australian dollars.

Fire

As of Thursday, an Australian dollar was worth $1.04.

"At present we believe more than 100 properties in Tasmania have been destroyed," ICA CEO Rob Whelan stated in a press release Wednesday.

The preliminary data shows more than 510 claims have been received in Tasmania, an island off the south shore of the continent.

"It is expected that once people start to return to their homes these numbers will rise," Whelan stated.

Last Saturday, ICA formally declared as a catastrophe the Forcett and Dunalley zone of Tasmania.

"Insurers are greatly concerned about fires that continue to affect several regions of Tasmania," Whelan stated at the time. "They are also monitoring conditions in other states, in particular South Australia, Victoria and Queensland, which face extreme bushfire risks."

ICA stated Wednesday its initial estimate for bushfire damage in the mainland state of Victoria, which includes Melbourne, was 9 million Australian dollars.

In New South Wales, there were more than 140 bushfires but as of Tuesday there had been "no significant property loss," ICA stated.

"However, property owners must remain on guard, with the weather bureau expecting hotter conditions to return," ICA stated of New South Wales.

By declaring some areas of Tasmania a catastrophe, ICA says, this means "insurers had established a taskforce to escalate the industry's response."

For example, a community forum, intended to give policyholders the opportunity to speak with insurance experts, is scheduled Jan. 21 at the Dunalley hotel, ICA said.

"It will cover aspects of the recovery process for insured property owners, including claims management, claims assessment and dispute resolution," ICA stated. "The forum will be attended by the ICA, and several insurance companies, plus representatives from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and Legal Aid."

ICA noted that the nation's Bureau of Meteorology warned of "high fuel loads" due to vegetation following two wet years, which is drying due to below-average rain in 2012.

"The bureau said the monsoon, which would provide some relief in the form of cloud and rain over northern Australia, has not yet developed," ICA noted. "As a result the air over the continent has become extremely hot and this is being driven into southern Australia ahead of each cold front as the fronts approach from the southwest. The resulting hot, windy conditions ahead of these cold fronts are contributing to dangerous fire-weather conditions."



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