independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Thousands of families now face losing home cover

Katie Nash, Tracy Prunty and Pippa Hartridge brave the swell and waves on the Great South Wall, Dublin. Picture: Colin Keegan
Katie Nash, Tracy Prunty and Pippa Hartridge brave the swell and waves on the Great South Wall, Dublin. Picture: Colin Keegan

TENS of thousands of families won't be able to insure their houses after storms ravaged the country, causing hundreds of millions of euro of damage.

With costs associated with the flood damage expected to reach €300m, many homes and businesses will be forced to pay for repairs from their own pockets in areas where flood insurance is not provided.

There are 50,000 homes in the country that either have no insurance cover for floods or are at serious risk of losing it, according to the Irish National Flood Forum.

And it is feared that the number will rise significantly when the fallout from the extreme damage of the past few days is fully assessed.

The forum wants to see an end of geo-profiling, which blacklists properties in a given area even if they are not prone to flooding. But Michael Horan of Insurance Ireland said that insurance companies could not cover areas of repeated flooding because it would cause premiums to "skyrocket".

"Insurance is about covering the risk of something happening, not an inevitable event. If companies were to cover homes in areas which are repeatedly flooding, it would cause the cost of premiums to skyrocket," he added.

He said that while claims had started to come in, it was still too early to estimate the cost of the storms and floods for another three to four weeks.

Meanwhile, Junior Minister at the Office of Public Works (OPW) Brian Hayes has pledged to "fast-track" any applications for flood-defence projects in the worst-affected areas.

The OPW is spending €45m on such projects this year, with a further €3m available for smaller projects. However, such projects typically take several years to plan, approve and construct.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has agreed to look at setting up a special fund for councils who will have to repair coastal roads, sea-walls, piers and car parks.

This decision will be made in conjunction with Environment Minister Phil Hogan and Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.

The Government's National Co-ordination Committee is meeting this week to discuss the response of the emergency services to the severe weather conditions -- and the need for additional assistance.

Emergency assistance is available from the Department of Social Protection for people who have no spare cash to cope with the impact of flooding.

But so far, the Government has made no decision on whether it will set up an assistance fund to provide once-off compensation to householders.

Even if such aid is provided, it will be limited because it is the Government's position that insurance companies should cover the cost of damage to homes they have insured.

VULNERABLE

As the country counts the cost of the clean-up, business owners are demanding more flood protection in vulnerable areas.

Galway Chamber President Jim Fennell said businesses in the city and Salthill could not continue to suffer because of the changing weather patterns.

"We can't change the weather and consequently, in the absence of improved flood defences, we should not be taken by surprise when the weather causes flooding.

"If necessary, the Government must be called upon to provide the requisite capital funding to put proper, long-term, flood defences in place."

Irish Independent

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