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Cost of bushfire damage to climb to $431 million

Remains of a burnt-out property that was impacted by a blaze in late December is seen at Bruthen South, Victoria, Saturday, January 4, 2019. Twenty-two people are dead, 21 more are missing and more than 1500 homes have been destroyed as fires burned through over six-million hectares of land. (AAP Image/James Ross)
Cost of bushfire damage climbs to nearly $400 million. Source: Getty

Bushfires have wreaked havoc on Australian properties, homes and lives, and insurers bearing the brunt of rebuilding costs will be footing a bill to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to the Insurance Council of Australia, insurers have received more than 6,000 bushfire claims from Aussies across New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, with these losses estimated to be over $431 million.

The ICA declared a bushfire catastrophe on 8 November 2019, which now encompasses 159 postcodes across four states.

A majority of the claims are from NSW, which has recorded 1,405 confirmed property losses, followed by Victoria (110), SA (88) and and Queensland (45).

The ICA previously quoted losses to be at $375 million, a figure which did not include a further $56 million in insured property losses during September and October, according to ICA head of communications Campbell Fuller.

“These figures do not include properties lost over the past 24-36 hours in areas such as the NSW Southern Highlands and south coast,” he added.

The areas declared as a bushfire catastrophe by the Insurance Council of Australia. (Source: ICA)
The areas declared as a bushfire catastrophe by the Insurance Council of Australia. (Source: ICA)

ICA CEO Rob Whelan said that insurers have been helping customers throughout this bushfire crisis.

“Emergency response teams are helping customers process claims and access emergency assistance in dozens of local communities. This past weekend alone more than 60 staff attended the evacuation centre in Melbourne to talk to evacuees about their needs,” he said.

“Insurers have booked hundreds of hotel and motel rooms and are providing emergency accommodation and financial assistance to many customers.”

More than 60 insurance response specialists have been sent to the Melbourne evacuation centre to provide support to those who have had to flee from their homes.

“Insurers have booked hundreds of hotel and motel rooms to provide emergency accommodation,” Whelan said.

He added that assessors from Australia and New Zealand had been dispatched to examine properties in fire-affected regions as soon as it has been deemed safe to enter.

Insurers have developed experience in helping communities recover from natural disasters, said Whelan, with bushfire claims being prioritised.

So far, this bushfire season has seen nearly 5 million hectares burnt across NSW, and the weekend saw the death toll rise to 23 people. More than 1,500 homes have been destroyed by the fires.

Firefighters will get some reprieve from battling the blazes thanks to cooler conditions and rain.

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