Australia – Insurers Declare Catastrophe After Storms in South East

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has declared a catastrophe for damage caused by storms that struck the Australian Capital Territory and parts of Victoria and New South Wales from 19 to 21 January, 2020.

ICA said insurers have received more than 29,000 claims, with over half coming from Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Losses are estimated at AUS$320 million. About two-thirds of claims are for damage to motor vehicles, in particular from hailstones. ACT Emergency Services Agency said it had fielded a record 2,044 calls for help since the storm first hit.

Hailstone damage in Canberra, January 2020. Photo: ACT Emergency Services Agency

While some bushfires continue to burn, south-eastern Australia has experienced a bombardment of extreme weather events over the last few. Areas have been blanketed in bushfire smoke and dust storms swept across western New South Wales.

Storms and heavy rain hit south-east Queensland from 18 to 19 January. More than 100mm of rain fell in many locations across. Roads were blocked and several theme parks had to close due to flooding.

The recent storms in ACT, New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria also brought heavy rain.

In Victoria, flash flooding was reported in parts of Melbourne, where some roads were closed. The suburb of Pakenham was among the worst affected by the floods. However much of the damage was a result of strong winds and hail. Victoria State Emergency Services (SES ) said on 21 January that “volunteers have dealt with a mammoth 2,200 calls for help during hail, wind and storms in the last 48 hours, with over 480 incidents still being dealt with on Tuesday (21 January) afternoon. ”

In New South Wales, State Emergency Services (SES) said they received 1,808 calls for assistance 15 to 21 January following severe thunderstorms, with over 1,000 of those calls coming during a storm 19 to 21 January.

Heavy rain was reported in Sydney on 16 January. By 17 January other parts of the state were affected, with flash flooding reported in Tingha and Glen Innes in the north of the state.

In a statement on 21 January, SES said: “A wave of fast-moving severe thunderstorms has impacted much of eastern NSW, bringing short bursts of intense rain, damaging wind gusts and golf to cricket ball sized hail.”

At one point 3,700 properties were without power. According to SES, the majority of jobs relate to fallen trees, damaged roofs and sandbagging to protect properties due to localised flooding.

Floods in Pakenham, Victoria, Australia, January 2020. Photo: Victoria SES

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