Canadian Underwriter

Insured losses from Cyclone Debbie reach AUS$1.5 billion, 85% of claims closed

November 7, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter

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Insurers have paid AUS$1 billion in claims related to Cyclone Debbie, with more than 85% of claims now closed, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) reported on Monday.

Damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Yasi, in Cardwell, Australia. TC Yasi struck the Queensland coast as a Category 5 system in the early hours of February 3, 2011, causing significant damage. The worst affected areas included the towns of Innisfail, Mission Beach, Tully and Cardwell.

Cyclone Debbie now ranks as the second-most expensive cyclone in Australian history, and the most expensive cyclone to hit Queensland, ICA said in a press release. ICA data shows insured losses have reached AUS$1.565 billion from 72,767 claims.

According to the insurance council, the costliest cyclone in Australia was Cyclone Tracy in the country’s Northern Territory in 1974 at AUS$4.1 billion in insurance losses (estimated loss value in 2015 dollars). The third place cyclone was Cyclone Yasi in Queensland in 2011 (US$1.532 billion in 2015 dollars).

Related: Insured property loss estimate for Tropical Cyclone Debbie in Australia up to AU$1.7 billion: PERILS

For Cyclone Debbie, since mid-September, a further 3,919 household and business claims have been lodged, adding AUS$89 million to the total losses, ICA reported. Despite the fresh lodgements, more than 85% of claims have been closed.

ICA CEO Rob Whelan said in the release that insurers had paid about AUS$355 million in repairs and services in the past six weeks alone, and the industry’s response to Cyclone Debbie claimants was the fastest on record. “Insurers are injecting AUS$11.8 million each working day into affected communities stretching from the Whitsundays through to southern New South Wales,” he said. “The closure rate for Cyclone Debbie is running at least 15 per cent ahead of any previous natural disaster. Some customers in the worst-hit areas, including the Whitsundays, may have more complex scopes of works to define and complete. Insurers have employed teams of local tradespeople as well as large building firms to accelerate the pace of these building works once agreements are reached with customers.”

Related: Insured losses from Tropical Cyclone Debbie reach nearly AU$1 billion: Insurance Council of Australia

Whelan added that ICA and insurance companies had organized or participated in more than 250 one-on-one meetings, briefings and forums to hear customer concerns and address issues. He said insurers were seeking to resolve a small number of contentious claims.

Queensland is facing an above-normal cyclone season this summer, and Whelan surged households and businesses to prepare their properties. Median premiums for home and contents in North Queensland had remained relatively stable over the past couple of years, he said, adding that insurers were competing in the region on price and policy features and a recent government report has shown that insurers were paying AUS$1.40 for every AUS$1 they received in premiums.

Related: PERILS estimates property market loss for Cyclone Debbie at AU$1,116 million