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Townsville losses exceed $600 million

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Industry losses from the Townsville floods are climbing as insurers continue to assess the damage.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says the damage bill was at least $606 million by Friday, based on 15,571 claims lodged. About 10% of claims are from businesses.

Insurers have dispatched hundreds of disaster recovery experts, assessors and claims staff to the north Queensland town as the clean-up continues.

“The deployment of resources and expertise by insurers has been the fastest response to a catastrophe on record, despite Townsville being inaccessible in the aftermath of the floods,” ICA CEO Rob Whelan said. “There is no doubt in my mind that Townsville, already well known for its high flood risk, has been hit by the worst floods in living memory.”

In a meeting on Friday ICA and senior insurance executives sought to assure the Queensland Government the industry will respond “swiftly, fairly and compassionately”.

It follows state politicians’ criticism of insurers for using so-called loopholes to deny payments after complaints from flood-hit businesses.

“Where flood cover was not purchased it will typically be tested by the insurer through an independent hydrology process,” Mr Whelan said. “This will determine if the inundation that caused the damage is to be classified as flood water or as storm water.”

The Bureau of Meteorology says the total rainfall from consecutive days of downpours was the most in Townsville since records began in 1888.

“The rainfall… was exceptional,” it says in a special climate statement.

“An unusual, extended period of heavy rainfall over large areas of tropical Queensland began in late January… and continued into February.

“The heavy rainfall was associated with an intense and very slow-moving monsoon low over northern Queensland that continued to affect Queensland until February 9.”

The bureau will update the climate statement at the end of the month.

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