28 March 2017Insurance

Catastrophe declared for severe tropical Cyclone Debbie in Australia

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has declared a catastrophe for damage caused by Category 4 severe tropical Cyclone Debbie, which made landfall today (March 28) in Queensland, Australia.

The declaration as catastrophe by ICA triggers additional measures such as the activation of a hotline and the establishment of a taskforce.

Cyclone Debbie made landfall between Bowen and Airlie Beach in Queensland whipping gusts of up to 263km/h (163mph), according to BBC News. It is moving inland as a Category 2 storm.

While it is too early to gauge the extent of the damage, insurers are anticipating thousands of claims, the ICA said.

"Insurers are already taking calls from policyholders, and many have teams standing by to enter the impact zone, assess claims and deliver assistance to their customers," said ICA CEO Rob Whelan.

"Insurers are prioritising claims from this disaster, and using a triage system to get assistance to those policyholders in most urgent need of assistance first.

Cyclone Yasi, which struck less populated areas further north in February 2011 as a Category 5, caused insured losses of A$1.4 billion. Since 2006, insurers have paid more than A$3.6 billion in cyclone-related claims in Queensland, and more than A$3.2 billion due to flood claims. Though Tropical Cyclone Debbie was expected to lose intensity after crossing the coast, Whelan warned the risk to life and property would remain.

"Even a Category 1 cyclone can generate wind gusts up to 125kmh, sufficient to fell trees or send debris flying dangerously," Whelan said.

"The torrential rainfall being dumped by this system also creates the risk of flooding.

"Fortunately, North Queensland property owners know they are highly exposed to cyclones and floods. They are more likely to be insured than most Australians and also have a higher level of coverage."

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More on this story

27 March 2017   Suncorp, one of Australia’s largest insurers, said that it is well protected against the financial impact of Cyclone Debbie through reinsurance protection.
29 March 2017   Cyclone Debbie roared ashore in Queensland as the most powerful storm to strike Australia since Cyclone Yasi destroyed Queensland resorts, homes, and crops in 2011, according to catastrophe risk modelling provider AIR Worldwide.