Insurance claims soar after floods and freeze
Insurance claims have soared to more than half a billion euro following the winter's unprecedented flooding and freezing temperatures, it emerged today.
The Irish Insurance Federation (IIF) warned premiums could rise after €244m was paid out on flooded properties and €297m covered the impact of January's freeze.
The pay-outs exceeded the total of all serious weather events over the last decade, which stood at €358m.
Mike Kemp, IIF chief executive, said the cost of the two severe weather events, in quick succession, will be nearly 60pc of annual turnover in the property insurance market.
"In 2008 insurers saw a 29pc increase in household claims and this upward trend continued in 2009, even before the flood and burst pipes claims hit," he said.
"The insured cost of these two significant weather events is very stark.
"While the cost has obvious implications for the Irish insurance sector, it is important to point out the resilience of our member companies in meeting the needs and requirements of over 30,000 customers during what has been a traumatic experience for so many people."
The IIF revealed the three counties worst hit by flooding were Cork, Galway and Clare where claims for damage to commercial and household property were €141m, €23m euro and €16m respectively.
While the freezing weather from late December into the New Year affected the entire country, Cork and Galway were again seriously affected.
Claims in Cork, Dublin and Galway are currently at €38m, €33m and €23m respectively - primarily related to burst pipes in the home.
Mr Kemp said insurance companies have worked around the clock to get the country moving after the severest weather conditions in living memory.
"While the costs have been huge, one consequence of the claims paid is the injection of over half a billion euro directly back into the Irish economy, which will benefit many of the trades, especially in the construction sector, that have been hit hardest by the recession," he continued.
"Insurance is about protecting against risk and that is the essential vital role we will continue to play in Irish society.
"However, with increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather conditions, questions inevitably arise as to the future cost and even insurability of some risks, particularly flood risk in some parts of the country."
Mr Kemp said while natural catastrophes can not be controlled, the impact of climate change can only be reversed in the very long term, if at all.
"There are measures that can be taken to minimise the damage caused by weather events in the future," he added.
"But there has to be a concerted, national approach, with clear ownership, to address issues such as improving planning and development rules to take greater account of flood risk, the priority attached to investment in flood defences, and even practical day-to-day measures such as effective and consistent management and maintenance of watercourses and drainage."