Australian Brush Fire Loss Estimates Rise

January 3, 2002

As more than a 100 individual fires continued to rage unchecked around Sydney and other parts of the Australian State of New South Wales, more homes and buildings have been destroyed, Australian insurers estimate that losses exceed U.S.$35 million with more to come.

The series of fires, many started deliberately, have been burning in various parts of the State since Christmas. (See IJ Website, Dec. 27 & 31) While intermittent cooling has helped the more than 10,000 firefighters contain some blazes, others have broken out, and, helped by high winds and temperatures often in excess of 100°F, have spread quickly.

Australia’s Insurance Disaster Response Organisation (IDRO) released estimates that insurers had received in excess of 200 claims, and are trying to process them as quickly as possible. Most are operating 24-hour call centers, and have begun issuing claims payments already. “Several large commercial claims and expected losses from homes destroyed overnight have boosted estimated insurance costs for the New South Wales (NSW) bushfires to A$70 million [U.S.$ 35.6 million],” the IDRO said in a statement, reported by the BBC.

At least 12 homes were destroyed overnight at Sussex Inlet, a beach resort located 118 miles south of Sydney, and more than 5000 people have been evacuated. The loss estimates now exceeds the $25 million in claims paid for losses from a similar series of brush fires in 1994.

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