Australian PM urges insurers to quickly deal with bushfire claims
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd urged insurance companies to act quickly and professionally when dealing with claims from victims of the Victorian bushfire, Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Thursday.
Early estimates put the damages bill to property at more than 500 million Australian dollars (about 327.3 million U.S. dollars), but analysts said the broader costs could exceed 2 billion Australian dollars (about 1.3 billion U.S. dollars), when lost crops and the destruction of public infrastructure was taken into account, Xinhua reported.
The official death toll of the worst-ever bushfire in Australia stands at 181 Thursday so far but Victorian police said they expected the final figure could be more than 300.
Stuart Alexander from the accountancy firm Deloitte told Radio National Breakfast that insurers had already been hit by the global financial crisis and those exposed to the bushfires should brace for further losses.
"We've been lucky in Australia in some respects over the last four or five years that, yes there have been disasters, but the claims haven't been significantly high," he said.
"But you're certainly seeing that coming through more and more with the floods in Queensland, the fires [in Victoria], the storms we had in northern New South Wales late last year, impacting on insurers' profitability," Alexander added.
Public donations to the Red Cross appeal have topped 50 million Australian dollars (about 32.7 million U.S. dollars) as hundreds of thousands of Australians offered their help to the victims.