Thursday 22 March 2018

Most victims who bore brunt of storms had been denied flood cover

Athlone has been badly hit by flooding
Athlone has been badly hit by flooding
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Ireland's devastating floods are unlikely to have a major impact on home insurance premiums - because most of those hit don't have flood cover.

While home insurance premiums are already rising due to a soaring number of claims and spiralling settlement costs, the harsh reality of the latest floods is that many of those who suffered damage cannot lodge claims and must pay damage bills themselves.

The Irish Brokers Association (IBA) warned that it is also far too early to assess the scale of the damage caused in the wake of Storm Desmond, or the cost of repairs nationwide.

With flooding still ongoing in the mid-west, it is unclear how much the total cost of repairs will amount to.

However, it is not expected to prove as expensive as the 2009 floods. Combined with disastrous flooding in Cork, the 2009 flood repair bill was more than €200m.

IBA official Brian McNelis said many of those who bore the brunt of the damage over the past seven days don't have insurance cover.

"We estimate that the majority of those that have been affected are probably without flood cover as they reside in areas believed to be prone to flooding and therefore categorised as flood zones," he said.

"Even those with flood cover now will struggle to secure it again at renewal unless the local authorities have carried out work to prevent reoccurrence."

An estimated 90pc of traders in the badly hit town of Bandon are now without flood cover.

One trader, Don O'Sullivan, said that insurance companies had warned him that they insured against risk and not probability.

"Insurance companies have been working with local authorities and have agreed the necessary remedies in many areas," Mr McNelis said.

"The hold-up appears to be in relation to central funding," he added.

"Unfortunately, it's hard to envisage insurance companies agreeing to cover risks which appear to be close to certainty in terms of likelihood."

Major flood protection schemes were undertaken by the Office of Public Works (OPW) in Clonmel, Mallow and Fermoy. Schemes are about to get under way in Cork city, Bandon and Skibbereen, as well as in Dublin and Kilkenny. The Cork city scheme, with a budget of almost €60m, will be Ireland's largest ever flood protection scheme.

Clonmel, Fermoy and Mallow - once the most flood-prone towns in Ireland - all escaped flood damage last week.

Insurance firms are now reassessing the three towns for flood cover.

However, OPW Minister Sim­on Harris said that he wanted to see a greater nationwide rate of reinsurance of householders and traders in areas where major flood protection measures were completed.

"I am still not satisfied with this - if the State is going to ultimately spend €1bn [in preventing climate-related damage] we cannot have a situation where businesses and homes cannot access flood insurance," he warned.

Irish Independent

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