ICA declares fires a catastrophe as cyclone hits NT
The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has declared a catastrophe in southern NSW and southwest Victoria after weekend fires devastated property, while claims are being lodged after Cyclone Marcus hit Darwin on Saturday. In NSW fire broke out near the coastal town of Tathra yesterday, destroying at least 70 properties, according to the Rural Fire Service. Blazes in Victoria were fuelled by hot and windy conditions, particularly around Terang, Garvoc and Camperdown. Local media reported up to 12 homes destroyed, with livestock, sheds and machinery also lost. ICA CEO Rob Whelan says the extent of property losses may take several days or more to be determined in NSW and Victoria, and it is too early to estimate the cost. “Insurance companies are standing by to help their customers through this traumatising time,” he said. The Financial Ombudsman Service has activated its “significant event” response plan for the fires, which provides a more streamlined process for disputes. ICA is also monitoring events in the NT after Category 2 Cyclone Marcus struck Darwin and Palmerston. Insurers have received about 600 claims so far, a spokesman told insuranceNEWS.com.au. Claims are mostly for light property damage, including broken windows, fences struck by trees and vehicle damage, although several large claims have been reported. Large trees were uprooted as the cyclone hit the city on Saturday morning, bringing wind gusts of more than 130kph. Residents were warned it could take time to restore power to nearly 26,000 homes, and were advised to boil water after the cyclone damaged supply pipes. FOS has also activated its significant event response plan to handle disputes over claims from north Queensland storms earlier this month. “The… plan is activated for events such as natural disasters that can potentially result in significant numbers of related disputes coming to FOS,” the service says. ICA spokesman Campbell Fuller told insuranceNEWS.com.au insurers have received about 250 claims so far and most involve low-level property damage and contents. It is too early to quantify the losses, he says.