Aussie Wildfire Insurance Losses Hit A$53 Million, Set to Climb

  • Bushfires destroyed more than 100 homes along Great Ocean Road
  • Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tours the devastated area

Losses from wildfires that destroyed more than 100 homes along a popular tourist stretch in southeastern Australia more than doubled in two days to A$53 million ($38 million) and are expected to climb further, the Insurance Council of Australia said.

Bushfires that swept areas along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria state on Christmas Day forced residents and holidaymakers to flee and destroyed 116 residences, before cooler weather and heavy rain slowed their spread, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. No casualties were reported.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, touring Wye River where 98 houses were leveled, lauded the efforts of firefighters in limiting the number of homes lost and warned of further risks ahead.

“The firefighters here know that the challenges are not over this season,” Turnbull said Tuesday. “There is hot weather coming in a few days.”

Victoria, which was struck in 2009 by the worst blazes in Australia’s history that killed 173 people and cost the country A$4 billion, faces renewed hot weather in the days ahead, authorities say. Australia regularly suffers from wildfires in the southern hemisphere’s summer as scorching heat combines with dry conditions and high winds to fan blazes.

“It will definitely go higher,” said Campbell Fuller, general manager of communications at the Insurance Council of Australia, referring to the A$53 million in losses reported Monday. “We can’t get insurance assessors into those areas for a few more days.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, touring the area with Turnbull, warned conditions would deteriorate from Wednesday with renewed heat through to New Year’s Day.

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