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Insurers declare NSW flood a catastrophe

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SYDNEY, Jan 29 AAP

January 29 2013, 12:30AM

Insurers have declared flooding and storms in northern and coastal NSW a catastrophe, prompting the establishment of a special taskforce to deal with damage claims.

Meanwhile in Queensland, insurance claims have topped 6000, with losses to date put at $72 million and climbing.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) on Tuesday declared a catastrophe for the Tweed and Northern Rivers regions and coastal areas of NSW from the Queensland border to the Illawarra.

The declaration follows storm damage and flooding of properties over the past two days caused by extreme weather conditions following ex-tropical cyclone Oswald.

On Saturday, the ICA declared a catastrophe for Queensland from Cairns south to the NSW border.

ICA chief executive Rob Whelan said the NSW declaration prompted the establishment of a taskforce to co-ordinate the industry's response to the emerging disaster and teams of assessors would go into affected areas when it was safe.

"Claims numbers in NSW are modest, though we would expect to see an increase in inquiries to insurers' call centres over the next 24-to-48 hours as property owners assess any damage caused by the extreme weather."

Mr Whelan said that by 7.30am (AEDT) on Tuesday insurers had received about 6100 claims in Queensland with losses estimated at $72 million and more damage claims were expected in coming days.

"Insurers are focusing their attention on Bundaberg, where more than 1000 properties are believed to have been flooded, many above floorboard height."

Claims are also expected from low-lying areas of Brisbane and Ipswich.