A damaged house after Tropical Cyclone Marcia hit the coastal town of Yeppoon in Central Queensland. Photo: Shelly AllsopInitial claims from property and car owners in areas hit by Cyclone Marcia have risen to 4350 but insurers have conceded the figure is likely to rise sharply when residents return to their homes and assess the damage.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the damage from the cyclone, which hit the north Queensland coast on Friday morning, was widespread and most of the worst-affected areas of Rockhampton and Yeppoon were still without power on Sunday.
“We’ve had assessments at the moment of over 1500 houses that have had some kind of structural damage, and in Yeppoon and Rockhampton around 100 severely impacted,” she said. “By severe, [I mean] that people can’t go back into their homes.”
Reports suggested that 55,000 properties had been damaged and 60,000 houses had lost power.
Insurance companies said it was too early to predict the size of the claims bill.
One industry insider doubted it would reach the $1.1 billion claims bill triggered by the Brisbane hailstorm in December although there were concerns that because Rockhampton and Yeppoon had not be subjected to a category 5 storm for several years, many buildings had not been upgraded to withstand high winds.
When Cyclone Marcia hit the coastal town of Yeppoon, north of Rockhampton, winds had reached 285km/h.
More than a third of the 4350 claims recorded by the Insurance Council of Australia were from Suncorp customers.
Suncorp said it had “activated” an extra 200 people at its call centre and was encouraging customers to lodge a claim if they suspected their property had been affected.
“Our initial assessment is a combination of destructive winds, fallen trees, flying debris and flooding have caused the majority of damage to homes and motor vehicles in impacted areas,” a Suncorp spokesman said.
QBE said it had received 150 claims by late Sunday.
By 10am on Sunday, IAG had received 350 claims via its NRMA and CGU brands.
The Insurance Council said companies would be able to set up mobile claims units in recovery centres being organised by the Queensland government in Rockhampton and Yeppoon.
Construction work at the three large LNG projects on Curtis Island in Gladstone is expected to resume on Monday. The sites were placed in effective lockdown on Thursday ahead of the approach of Cyclone Marcia.
Kevin Berg, general manager, Gladstone, for Bechtel, the US engineering contractor heading up construction of all three projects, pointed to some flooding at the sites but no serious damage, accidents or injuries.
“There have been some excess water issues but we are looking to return to normal construction as soon as we can do so safely,” Mr Berg said on Sunday.
Bechtel sent some workers home to Gladstone on Thursday when it halted construction but many others hunkered down in cyclone-proof accommodation on Curtis Island to wait out the storm.
The cyclone disrupted LNG loading at one project already in production on Curtis ISland, BG Group’s $US20.4 billion Queensland Curtis venture. The tanker moored at the QCLNG jetty to load LNG was forced to sail to calmer waters outside the harbour. It was understood to be preparing to sail back to the project site to resume loading.
Gladstone harbour was reopened on Saturday for daylight hours only, which allowed Bechtel to get its ferry services running.
BHP said coal railing and shipping from Gladstone and Hay Point on Queensland’s central coast were temporarily halted on Thursday evening but operations had returned to normal by Sunday.
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