Victorian Government sources tell VEXNEWS that authorities fear the death toll from our worst ever bushfires could be much much worse than the confirmed number.
The fire moved as quickly as 120 km/h in some cases, even those who were able to escape to rallying points.
The full extent of the horror is not yet known and will not be known until the fires are defeated. Cooler temperatures offer some relief to the firefighters who are determined to extinguish still out of control fires near significant population centres in Victoria’s north-east and beyond.
It is in that context that Australia’s insurance companies have the eyes of the nation upon them. Despite Australian insurers being reinsured for this kind of risk, investors have assumed the worst brutally marking down the two biggest players in the property insurance market, Suncorp and Insurance Australia Group.
The Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has urged them to be sympathetic.
There’s good reason for her to do so. Those with long memories can remember just how mean and tricky insurance companies have been in these situations.
In the Ash Wednesday catastrophe, some insurance companies disgraced themselves by slow-paying or under-paying claims. Back then we spent a lot of time on Mt Macedon and heard many stories of arrogant insurance assessors strutting the Mount with clipboards and bad attitudes, telling people who’d made claims crazy things like they couldn’t say their home had been totally destroyed because a chimney or carport were left standing.
It was as absurd as it was evil.
Those who had lost everything then found themselves battling multi-billion dollar insurance corporations. It was just too much to bear.
Not all insurance companies were like that though. And the worst of them – FAI – is no longer in business.
The peak body of the industry has taken action already to co-ordinate its response. We can only hope they act quickly, decently and with compassion as good corporate citizens.
If they don’t, they’ll be hell to pay.