Insurance claims from bushfire-affected householders and small businesses in two Queensland communities will be escalated and prioritised following the extension of the current Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) Catastrophe declaration.

The declaration now covers customers who suffered bushfire-related insured losses in Yeppoon and on the Sunshine Coast as well as the New South Wales mid-north coast.

The decision followed confirmation of property losses and consultation between the ICA, the Queensland Government, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service and local insurers. On Nov 12 Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) declared a State of Fire Emergency across 42 Local Government Areas in Queensland, following a period of significantly heightened fire weather conditions expected to continue into the following week.

Severe Weather Update: Very High to Severe fire dangers continue over northeast #NSW & southern Qld. Video current at 10.30 am AEST Wednesday 13 November 2019. 

Latest weather warnings at https://t.co/nrtDcSK39q; follow advice from emergency services @QldFES @NSWRFS @abcemergency pic.twitter.com/06S27Cc10i 

— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) November 13, 2019

QFES Acting Commissioner Mike Wassing said fire crews were battling multiple blazes and all possible steps had to be taken to prevent further fires igniting.

“We’re experiencing tinder box-like conditions across much of the state and all it takes is one spark to start a fire that may burn for days,” he said.

ICA Head of Communications Campbell Fuller said insurers had experienced a rapid increase in claims. He encouraged affected property owners to contact their insurers as soon as possible to allow the claims process to start.

“Insurance assessors are starting to visit a limited number of areas that have been declared safe by emergency services, but dangerous bushfires remain active in many regions,” Fuller said.

“Once insurers are aware of a claim they can swiftly provide appropriate help to the customer, which in many cases may include authorising urgent repairs or arranging emergency accommodation.”

NTI CEO Tony Clark said the insurer had received a number of claims since the bushfires began. Dozens of communities remain under threat and there are predictions the fire danger will continue.

“The effects of these fires have been, and continue to be, devastating,” he said.

“Tragically, we know families have lost loved ones. We know small business owners have lost vehicles which they rely on, from heavy vehicles, through to delivery vans and construction machinery.”

According to ICA data, by 2pm on November 13, insurers had received 450 bushfire-related claims from NSW and Queensland. Insured losses are estimated at $50 million. Many more claims are expected to be lodged in coming days and weeks. Claims from these bushfires will be prioritised by all insurers. The declaration is intended to reduce the emotional, physical and financial stress experienced by affected families.

You can find our previous coverage of this catastrophe here.