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Wild storm catastrophe losses reach $440 million

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Storms that swept across SA, Victoria and Tasmania six weeks ago have caused losses totalling $440 million, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) estimates, as wild weather continues to affect eastern states.

ICA declared a catastrophe for SA on October 29 after large hail, rain and strong winds hit the state and extended the declaration on November 1 to include Victorian and Tasmanian areas affected by the same storm cell.

The event has generated 69,000 claims, with 64,000 currently outstanding, according to data on ICA’s website.

Insurance losses for catastrophes declared this year have reached $1.7 billion, also including Victorian storms in June, Cyclone Seroja in April, severe flooding in NSW and southeast Queensland in March and bushfires in WA early in the year.

The total including last year’s Queensland Halloween hailstorms, where claims activity is still being monitored, has reached $2.78 billion.

Insurers are bracing for more stormy weather after Australia has had its wettest November since records began in 1900. It was also the country's wettest spring since 2010, according to the Bureau of Meteorology's spring climate summary.

The trend has continued this month with regions of Victoria, NSW and Queensland hit by heavy rain and further flooding. Parts of southeast NSW and the Gippsland area of Victoria received falls of 50-100mm overnight.

The Bureau of Meteorology says a La Nina is underway and latest indicators show the atmosphere is responding to changes in ocean temperatures.

“This feedback process is known as ‘coupling’, and it means La Nina conditions are now expected to be locked in until at least the end of summer,” the bureau said on Tuesday.

The La Nina weather pattern typically leaders to wetter-than-normal periods for eastern, northern and central parts of Australia and an elevated cyclone risk.