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Sydney hailstorm declared a catastrophe as claims pour in

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Insurers are bracing for losses of hundreds of millions of dollars from last night’s Sydney hailstorm, which has been declared a catastrophe by the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA).

About 15,000 claims from the Sydney and central coast areas have been received, with three-quarters of claims so far involving damage to motor vehicles, ICA spokesman Campbell Fuller says.

Hailstones as large as tennis balls fell on Sydney and surrounding areas, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), causing extensive damage to motor vehicles and the roofs of buildings.

“Insurers have declared a catastrophe for the hailstorm. That reflects the extensive damage and number of customers affected,” Mr Fuller told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

IAG says it received more than 6500 claims by mid-morning today for motor and property damage, with the number set to “rise significantly” over coming days.

“The scale of anticipated claim volumes and severity of related hail damage already indicate the pre-tax cost of the Sydney storms will be in line with IAG’s maximum first-event retention of $169 million post-quota share,” the company said. 

While ICA is at present estimating claims losses of at least $80 million, Mr Fuller says the number will rise as owners check their properties and vehicles.  

Australia’s worst natural catastrophe on record is the 1999 Sydney hailstorm, which caused insured loss of $1.7 billion – or $5.6 billion in 2017 dollars. 

Insurers and ICA have set up an industry taskforce to liaise with emergency services, state agencies and the NSW Government. “Claims from this catastrophe will be prioritised and escalated,” Mr Fuller said.

“We are urging customers to be patient and to lodge claims online if they can. Small businesses should contact their insurance brokers as soon as possible.” 

The BOM this morning tweeted that thunderstorms are expected again today across parts of NSW with the possibility of severe storms in the north-east of the state. 

Last night’s hailstorm is the latest of a series of severe storms in the east of Australia in recent weeks. IAG estimates its net natural peril claim costs for the financial year to date currently amount to about $410-$430 million, including $70 million from the southern low which affected parts of NSW, Victoria and Queensland in mid-December.