Severe storms have once again devastated Australia, with tens of thousands of Victoria residents remaining without power or telecommunications as major flooding impacts the state. Now, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has declared an insurance catastrophe for regions impacted by the natural disaster over these last few days.
According to ABC, as of Monday afternoon, over 25,000 properties still did not have power after severe storms hit several parts of the state.
The ICA has not yet determined the extent of the damage to affected properties but revealed that insurers had received over 6,500 claims in the past few days. It stated that Gippsland around Traralgon and Yarra Ranges took a significant hit from the severe flooding. However, the catastrophe declaration covers all claims related to the event.
The ICA’s catastrophe declaration serves to escalate and prioritise the insurance industry’s response for affected policyholders. Under the declaration:
- Insurers will prioritise affected policyholders’ claims.
- Claims will be triaged to direct urgent assistance to the worst-affected property owners.
- The ICA activated its direct hotline (1800 734 621) to assist policyholders if they are uncertain of their insurance details or have general inquiries about the claims process. However, it is not a claims lodgement service.
- The ICA will mobilise representatives to work with local agencies and services and affected policyholders as soon as emergency services say it is safe to do so.
- Insurers will mobilise disaster response specialists to assist affected customers with claims and assessments as soon as emergency services say it is safe to do so.
- An established industry task force will identify and address issues arising from the catastrophe.
ICA chief executive officer Andrew Hall said the catastrophe declaration activates services and support for affected homeowners and businesses and reassures them that their insurer will help them.
“As many areas are currently inaccessible due to floodwater, insurers are expecting further claims in coming days as emergency services allow residents to return to their properties to examine the extent of their damage and losses,” Hall said in a statement.
As of this writing, the catastrophe had claimed two lives and inundated over 300 buildings. Meanwhile, floodwater cut off several roads in the state, according to News.com.au.
The ICA advised affected policyholders to:
- Prioritise safety rather than doing anything that puts anyone at risk.
- Only return to their property when emergency services give a go signal.
- If water has entered their property, they must not turn on their electricity until an electrician has inspected it.
- Contact their insurer as soon as possible to lodge a claim and seek guidance on the claims process.
- Take pictures or videos of damage to their property and possessions as evidence for their claim before cleaning up.
- Keep samples of materials and fabrics to show their insurance assessor.
- Remove water or mud-damaged goods from their property that might pose a health risk, such as saturated carpets and soft furnishings.
- Make a list of each damaged item and include a detailed description, such as brand, model, and serial number if possible.
- Store damaged or destroyed items somewhere safe.
- Speak to their insurer before attempting or authorising any building work (including emergency repairs) and ask for the insurer’s permission in writing as the policy might not cover unauthorised work.
- Do not throw away goods that could be salvaged or repaired.