Evacuation is always the best option for bushfire victims

The mass evacuation of communities in the path of bushfires this summer has the support of insurers even as the costs from the latest catastrophe in Western Australia climbed over $60 million.

As fires raze hundreds of homes in WA towns such as Yarloop, authorities have encouraged residents to evacuate unless they were confident they could defend their homes. Towns were cleared along Victoria's Great Ocean Road at Christmas. as fires raged in soaring temperatures.

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The Insurance Council of Australia, which represents Australia's biggest insurance companies, said it supported "any action by bushfire-threatened residents that reduces the risk of injury or loss of life."

"If the official advice is that residents should evacuate, the ICA recommends that guidance be followed," ICA general manager of communications, Campbell Fuller, said.

As fires raze hundreds of homes in WA towns such as Yarloop, authorities have encouraged residents to evacuate unless ...
As fires raze hundreds of homes in WA towns such as Yarloop, authorities have encouraged residents to evacuate unless they were confident they could defend their homes.  Photo: Tom Jacobs

Australia's biggest insurer, IAG, said the immediate priority was to ensure the safety of individuals and communities when responding to the bushfire threat.

"Property can be replaced and that's why we encourage people to make sure they have the right insurance cover for their needs," IAG corporate communications manager Natalie Pennisi said.

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The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has urged residents to flee to safety, and on the weekend warned the towns of Harvey, Cookernup, Wokalup and surrounding areas were at risk of being razed.

More than 140 properties have been decimated in the community of Yarloop in south west WA, as bushfires claimed homes and the lives of two of the town's residents.

A bushfire has completed devastated the south west WA town of Yarloop.
A bushfire has completed devastated the south west WA town of Yarloop. Photo: Murray Cowper

Australia's fourth largest insurer, Allianz, said property insurance premiums may not necessarily rise next year as a result of the latest bushfire claims.

"Just because residents have been evacuated does not mean that fire authorities are not able to continue to undertake property protection activities if it is safe to do so," spokesman Nicholas Scofield said.

Cookernup residents placed on watch and act alert again after fire flares up.
Cookernup residents placed on watch and act alert again after fire flares up.  Photo: Bunbury Volunteer Bushfire Brigade

"Thus, it is not clear that the evacuation of civilians has a material impact on the ultimate amount of property damage incurred."

Suncorp Group, which owns brands such as AAMI and GIO, said insurers were continuing to call for improved natural catastrophe mitigation strategies including better town planning to lessen the future impact of bush fires.

Around 97 per cent of disaster funding is spent on clean ups, with just 3 per cent allocated to prevention.

"We continue to advocate for improving resilience of homes to better withstand bushfires, and as well as other catastrophe risks like flood and cyclone," Suncorp spokeswoman Nadia Farha said.

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