Insurers are bracing for a huge damage bill as the scale of the destruction wrought by massive blazes across five states slowly emerges.
Since November 8, insurers have received 3870 claims worth almost $240 million, including more than 1000 homes destroyed or damaged by fire, as survivors begin to count the cost of the infernos that have swept through large parts of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania in recent weeks.
About 72 per cent of the claims are from New South Wales, 18 from South Australia and 5 per cent each from Victoria and Queensland.
The figures do not include the most recent property losses from the fires that have ravaged southern NSW and eastern Victoria, and the financial toll is expected to grow rapidly as conditions ease and emergency services, building impact assessment teams, residents and insurance assessors gain access to burnt out areas and begin reckoning the damage.
In New South Wales alone, the Rural Fire Service has confirmed at least 176 homes have been destroyed in the New Year's Eve fires, including 89 at Conjola Park, 40 at Malua Bay and 15 at Rosedale.
This is in addition to 916 homes, 2107 outbuildings and 73 facilities destroyed, and a further 363 houses, 911 sheds and 86 facilities damaged in NSW during the current fire season, which began in July.
Authorities in Victoria reported early on New Year's Day that at least 50 properties have been lost across East Gippsland, but that number is expected to rise.
In South Australia, the Cudlee Creek fire in the Adelaide Hills destroyed 86 homes, 404 outbuildings and 227 cars, and caused extensive damage to vineyards and orchards.
Insurance Council of Australia spokesman Campbell Fuller said insurers were expecting claims to rapidly mount as further details of fire damage and destruction emerge.
"The latest figures do not capture most of the recent property losses in eastern Victoria and southern NSW," he said. "It is likely these will be lodged with insurance companies and brokers over the next few weeks as householders, primary producers and business owners gain access to their properties."
Mr Fuller most claims received so far were for dwellings and "we are expecting to receive claims for machinery, farm equipment, sheds, fencing and crops [as well]".
Mr Fuller said that in the 236 postcodes affected by the bushfire emergency there were, in addition to homes, 1.219 million farm buildings and commercial assets covered by insurance policies.
The council has declared a catastrophe covering four states: NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, which means bushfire-related claims will be given absolute priority in the assessment process.
Mr Fuller said the industry would do all it could to speed the claims process for bushfire victims.
"Insurance assessors are among the first on site, and will be on the ground as soon as it is safe to do so," he said, though adding that the "Dantesque" conditions were making access in many areas difficult.
Mr Fuller said in some places assessors were yet to get access to areas burnt two weeks ago, and warned that it would be months before the full extent of losses would be known.
While the eventual damage bill could reach many hundreds of millions of dollars, Mr Fuller said the insurance industry had the capacity to cover insured losses.
"Insurers are prepared for it, they are prepared for the bushfire season," he said.
"We have been taking advice from the Bureau of Meteorology and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre since early this year.
"They warned to expect an extended and protracted bushfire season, driven by the drought, high temperatures, strong winds and dry vegetation, and that is what insurers prepared for."
The federal government has been under pressure to increase support and assistance for firefighters, but Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud told ABC Radio insurers also needed to make a contribution.
"We need to have a conversation with the Insurance Council. They are benefactors [sic] of the hard work of those firefighters as well, and the role they play in this," the minister said.
But Mr Fuller said firefighting services "protect all property, whether it is insured or not", and were funded by the community, including insurance companies, through taxes and levies.