People affected by a massive flood event in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) are being warned to avoid “disaster chasers,” with the insurance bill for the once-in-a-generation event tipped to top $1 billion.
Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) CEO Andrew Hall says insurers have so far received 9,500 claims from residents and business owners.
Most of the claims so far are flowing from the hard-hit Mid-North Coast and Western Sydney regions.
“The floods this time last year—you will remember we had a lot of rain at the end of the drought last year—that event cost insurers around about $1 billion,” Hall told Channel Nine on March 16. “So we are bracing for more claims to come in over the coming days as the waters recede.”
The ICA on Monday declared a catastrophe for large parts of NSW hit by storms, heavy rainfall and flooding since last week.
The declaration allows insurers to escalate their response and prioritise the needs of policyholders.
Hall warned people not to deal with “disaster chasers.”
These are persons who target those impacted by extreme events and offer to do their claims for them, for a fee.
“You don’t need to do that,” he warned. “You should immediately be contacting your insurer directly … You don’t need a third party to help you.”
Around NSW, over 24,000 people have been evacuated as of Wednesday, and 60,000 are on standby to evacuate.
Emergency services received 11,000 calls for help, with 1,600 SES volunteers joining rescue efforts.
Over 950 flood rescues have been carried out.
One man in Sydney’s north-west was found dead after he was trapped in his car by floodwaters, Nine reported. Police confirmed the man’s body was found in Cattai Creek in Glenorie just after 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
Some farmers also lost livestock as the flood waters rose, with Taree dairy farmer Rod Lattimore losing 20 heifers, according to The Guardian.
The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast no major rainfall over the next week, giving rescue efforts a reprieve as they deliver essential supplies to isolated communities as they begin the long process of cleaning up.
“We’re certainly not out of the woods,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.
“What we still have to be aware of is the fact that thousands and thousands of people are still on evacuation warnings, that the rivers will continue to swell, that catchments will continue to experience flows of water not seen in 50 years and in some places 100 years.”
Repairs and the clean-up are underway with affected schools expected to reopen as soon as possible.
“Given the continuing bad weather, it may take some days to gain access to sites to assess the damage,” NSW Education spokesperson said.
“Local flooding and road closures are limiting access, and it may take some days to fully assess the extent of any damage to additional schools.”