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More claims received as industry counts cost of Seroja

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Insurers have received some 2149 claims for losses from Cyclone Seroja, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says.

No loss estimates are available yet as the recovery and clean-up operations continue more than a week after the category 3 storm made landfall between the townships of Kalbarri and Northampton in WA.

ICA declared the cyclone an insurance catastrophe for parts of WA that bore the brunt of the storm. At least 70% of buildings in Kalbarri have been flattened, according to national broadcaster ABC News.

James Cook University Professor of Physical Geography Jonathan Nott has warned Seroja “may be a timely wake-up call” for Australia and its approach to mitigating the impact of future cyclones.

“It appears to be one of the more intense tropical cyclones to make landfall that far south on the western Australian coast,” Professor Nott told insuranceNEWS.com.au. “It’s just highlighting that these things can occur.

“We can’t say specifically climate change is responsible for this cyclone. All that we can say is that with climate change, we can expect to see more of these sorts of events in the future.

“It may be the case that we are going to see more of this sort of damage in the future so obviously that has big implications for insurance.

“It also has implications for the engineering of dwellings too and whether we might start talking about the possibility of extending the wind zones, the wind areas further south.”

According to Professor Nott, who specialises in reconstructing long-term natural records of extreme events, cyclones with intensity similar to that of Seroja rarely make it so far south in WA.

Records show this has only happened 26 times in the past 5000 years.

“Unfortunately, climate change is likely to mean disasters such as Cyclone Seroja will become more intense, and will be seen further south in Australia more often,” Professor Nott said. “In this regard, Seroja may be a timely wake-up call.”