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Insurers face $0.7 billion in claims

Insurance companies have received in excess of 65,000 claims with insurance losses passing $670 million so far this summer.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says $674 million is its conservative estimate from four catastrophes in three states, and more claims are expected over the next fortnight. ICA chairman Rob Whelan noted that many parts of Australia have yet to reach the peak of their local disaster seasons, and more cyclones, floods and bushfires remain a strong possibility.

Queensland floods and storm damage have generated the lion’s share of the total with 53,711 claims and $553 million in insurance losses so far. Ex-tropical cyclone Oswald left a path of destruction, as it brought extreme weather conditions across the state, which led to flooding and wind damage, and leaving thousands of Brisbane and Queensland residents without power for days.

8,000 claims and $20 million insurance losses have been claimed from NSW floods and storm damage, after Oswald hit far northern NSW. The impact was much less than in Queensland as Oswald lost strength the further south it travelled.

Tasmanian bushfires have seen 1,900 claims and $89 million in insurance losses so far, while NSW bushfires have resulted in 1,500 claims and an estimated $12 million of insurance losses.

Suncorp Limited (ASX: SUN) advised earlier this week that it was looking at losses of between $200m and $220m thanks to the flooding in NSW and Queensland. Fellow ICA members, including Insurance Australia Group (ASX: IAG) and QBE Insurance (ASX: QBE) have yet to quantify their expected losses, although IAG noted that it had received 5,600 claims by the end of January as a result of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald. IAG’s reinsurance programme limits the company’s maximum exposure to a first event to $150 million, but the costs could end up much less.

Foolish takeaway

We could yet see more disasters in the weeks ahead as parts of Australia head into the peak extreme weather periods. Insurers (and their shareholders) will be hoping weather conditions stay relatively mild.

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More reading

The Motley Fool’s purpose is to help the world invest, better. Click here now for your free subscription to Take Stock, The Motley Fool’s free investing newsletter. Packed with stock ideas and investing advice, it is essential reading for anyone looking to build and grow their wealth in the years ahead.  This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson. Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King owns shares in QBE.

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