The total claimed losses from the floods affecting Queensland and NSW are likely to hit $50 million this week, says the Insurance Council of Australia, as governments and industry flag financial assistance for flood victims.
Bundaberg has been declared the top priority in Queensland, with Premier Campbell Newman describing it as the centre of the state’s floods crisis.
Approximately 7,500 people have been displaced by the flooding of 2,000 homes, as a major airlift operation evacuates patients from the city’s hospital.
The floods, which have already killed four people, including a child, are the third catastrophe declared so far this year, following severe bushfires in Tasmania and northern NSW.
Since 2010, the ICA has declared six catastrophes in Queensland for flooding and cyclone damage, with losses reaching almost $4 billion.
Despite calls for increased spending on efforts to limit flood damage, an ICA spokesperson said he’s “unaware of any substantive mitigation that has taken place over the past two years”.
In the meantime, the ICA has set up a disaster hotline on 1800 734 621 to help people identify their insurer and their coverage, particularly for those unable to access their own records because of the floods.
Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan has said the government will extend funding through the joint Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) program.
It’s understood there are now more than 30 councils across Queensland eligible for assistance.
However, Swan said yesterday it is “far too early” to discuss the recovery phase of the floods, but said there are processes that will be put in place at the appropriate time.
“It’s far too early to be talking about putting dollars and numbers down on a piece of paper,” Swan said.
“What we’re really concerned with at the moment is making sure that lives are saved and that property is saved.”
Queensland horticulture body Growcom has welcomed the announcement of assistance under the NDRRA, but has called for additional measures.
“While the damage is not as widely spread as in the 2010/11 floods, for some individual growers the effect of their properties being under floodwaters again is the same as last time,” Growcom chief executive Alex Livingstone said in a statement.
“For others it is far worse. For those growers who bore the brunt of the 2010/11 floods, the struggle to get going again will be very hard.
“We call on the government to reinstate the Farm Financial Counsellors scheme to assist growers to access the financial assistance they need to get back on track. Industry recovery officers will also be essential.”
Meanwhile, Bank of Queensland has flagged a range of flood support initiatives, including a package of relief measures for impacted customers, who can temporarily defer mortgage and loan repayments for a period.
A special flood hotline (1300 737 766) has also been set up for customers with questions or those requiring urgent assistance.