Insurance Council of Australia Declares Catastrophe for New South Wales Bushfires

November 12, 2019

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) on Nov. 9 declared a catastrophe for the bushfires blazing in northern New South Wales.

The catastrophe declaration is for communities on the mid-north coast affected by bushfires that have reportedly destroyed more than 100 homes.

The Insurance Council’s head of Risk and Operations Karl Sullivan said insurers were initiating their disaster response by mobilizing teams of assessors and claims specialists.

“Insurers will be poised to move into these communities once emergency services declare it safe to do so,” he said. “I urge property owners to do the same — do not return to your home until you are told it is safe. These fires are still raging in many areas and have already caused the loss of life. The safety of people is paramount.”

Sullivan encouraged affected property owners to contact their insurers as soon as possible to enable the claims process to start. He said many policies included providing emergency accommodation.

“The catastrophe declaration means claims from these bushfires will be prioritised by all insurers, and they will be focusing on reducing the immense emotional and financial stress experienced by residents and businesses,” he said.

This is the fourth bushfire catastrophe declared by the ICA this year. The three other fires were:

  • In October, the Rappville bushfire resulted in 200 claims with insured losses estimated at A$25 million (US$17.1 million).
  • In September, insurers received 300 claims from fires in northern NSW and south-east Queensland, with A$20 million (US$13.7 million) in insured losses.
  • In March, the Bunyip bushfires in eastern Victoria caused losses of A$31.9 million (US$21.9 million), with 432 claims received.

The first catastrophe for the year was declared in February for damage to Townsville and surrounding regions following a monsoonal downpour. Insurers received more than 30,000 claims with losses of A$1.3 billion (US$890 million).

Photograph: Firefighters work to contain a bushfire along Old Bar road in Old Bar on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. Photo credit: Darren Pateman/AAP Image via AP.


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