Extensive damage caused by ongoing bushfires prompted the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) to formally declare as catastrophes the region around Coonabarabran and the Warrumbungle National Park in northern New South Wales.
The ICA issued the catastrophe declaration, which covers insured properties in and around the region, on Jan. 16, the second such declaration so far in 2013.
Earlier this month, ICA formally declared the Forcett and Dunalley zone of Tasmania, an island off the south shore of Australia, as a catastrophe. As of 9 am yesterday, the council notes insurers had received 725 claims from the Tasmanian bushfires, resulting in insurance losses are estimated at $69 million Australian dollars.
At the time of the catastrophe declaration in Tasmania earlier this month, an estimated 140 bushfires were burning in New South Wales. There had been “no significant property loss” as of Jan. 7.
A little more than a work later, the region around Coonabarabran and the Warrumbungle National Park had been declared a catastrophe.
In response that most recent declaration, insurers have established a task force to escalate the industry’s response and improve co-ordination with governments and emergency services, including access to properties and communities when it was safe to do so, says Rob Whelan, CEO of the ICA.
Whelan reports that insurers had anticipated a summer of high bushfire risk, but the number and ferocity of the fires experienced so early in the season was of great concern. To date in the area, more than 30 homes have been affected and there has been significant damage to rural properties, including outbuildings, machinery, fencing and stock, he advises.
An estimate of insurance losses would not be possible until next week, Whelan says, adding that ICA will start collecting data from insurers once it is safe to do so.
ICA staff members are expected to arrive in the region today. “Assessors would be able to reach affected properties once claims were lodged and emergency services were able to provide safe access,” notes the council statement.
Beyond ensuring safe entry, the ICA advises that affected policyholders to do the following:
- contact their insurance companies as soon as possible to check what policies include or exclude, and to seek guidance on the claims process;
- take pictures of damage to the property and possessions as evidence for a claim;
- if possible, keep samples of materials and fabrics to show the assessor;
- make a list of each item and include a detailed description, such as brand, model and serial number;
- store damaged or destroyed items somewhere safe; and
- speak to the insurer before authorizing repairs.