Bushfires unlikely to be high cost disaster

The country's biggest insurers are counting the cost of the NSW bushfires, with losses worth an estimated $138 million and climbing.

The country's biggest insurers are counting the cost of the NSW bushfires, with losses worth an estimated $138 million and climbing.

By Friday, victims of the bushfires had made 1011 insurance claims, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.

The value of claims jumped $45 million in the past five days as residents returned to their homes in fire-ravaged areas to discover damaged or destroyed property.

"While claims lodgements have stabilised over the past couple of days, we expect these to begin climbing again as returning residents assess any property damage," council chief executive Rob Whelan said on Friday.

Insurance Australia Group has received about 600 fire-related claims across its NRMA and CGU businesses. A spokesman said it was too early to give an accurate indication of the cost of the claims.

But IAG boss Mike Wilkins said the group had already agreed on the settlement terms for more than 50 per cent of the "total loss" home claims it had received.

More than 200 homes have been destroyed by the fire disaster, which has so far concentrated in the Blue Mountains. But economists say it is are unlikely to be as costly as past natural disasters.

"Unlike the floods in Queensland in late 2010 and early 2011, which saw more than 25 million tonnes of lost coal production and shaved around 0.75 percentage points off 2010-11 GDP growth, [these fires] will have an almost negligible impact on economic activity," ANZ economist Felicity Emmett said. "The bushfires have caused little or no damage to the local infrastructure."

In the past 10 years, major bushfires have triggered insurance claims of $1.6 billion in Australia, according to figures compiled by Deutsche Bank. The Victorian fires of 2009 inflicted the largest insurance cost, exceeding $1 billion, with over 9000 claims.

Deutsche Bank analyst Kieren Chidgey said IAG and Suncorp had "significant headroom" to cover this and other big insurance events, with dedicated 2014 financial year budgets of $640 million and $565 million respectively.

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