Large parts of central and southern Australia are suffering from a persistent heatwave that has caused catastrophic bushfires across Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria. They are the worst bushfires to affect the area since ‘Black Saturday’ in 2009, which devastated Victoria and ended up costing the Australian economy AU$4.4 billion.
The fires have been aggravated by record temperatures in the region. The hottest average maximum temperature ever recorded—40.33 Celsius—was set on Monday 7 January 2013.
Tasmania has been the worst affected. Preliminary data collected by the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) shows more than 410 insurance claims have been received as at 9 January, with initial reports of losses estimated around AU$49 million. More than 100 properties are believed to be destroyed, but thankfully police are yet to find evidence of fatalities.
The ICA has formally declared the worst-affected areas of Tasmania a catastrophe, meaning that insurers have established a taskforce to escalate the industry’s response and help affected communities as quickly as possible. Further expansion of declared areas is possible given the ongoing nature of the fire situation.
The Australian Government has quickly made emergency funding available to those affected and public fundraising is also in full swing with over AU$1.5 million already raised through a Red Cross appeal.
New South Wales has also suffered with more than 140 bushfires so far, however there has been no significant property loss reported to date. Meanwhile, the ICA says the initial estimate for this week’s bushfire damage in Victoria is AU$9 million.
Claire King is National Marketing Director for Willis Australia. Claire joined Willis in 2007, with responsibility for overseeing all communications and marketing activity for Willis in the region. Claire has over 15 years marketing and communications experience across a range of industries including insurance, healthcare, hospitality and executive recruitment.