Payouts for downpour victims to top €100m (Irish Independent)

04 November 2011

Flood damage claims could reach as high as €100m as a big mopping-up operation continues across the country following days of torrential rain.

The cost of the huge clean up is expected to top the bill for the 2004 floods in a move that is expected to push up premiums for households and businesses.

Insurance companies said claims costs are likely to be higher this time as a mixture of commercial and domestic properties were hit.

Also pushing up the costs is the fact that much of the damage was in Dublin, where properties costs are higher than in the rest of the country.

Insurance firms contacted by the Irish Independent said they were bracing themselves for a rash of claims in the next few weeks.

Last night, one of the largest loss adjusters in the State, GAB Robins, said the losses were heading for €100m. The firm evaluates the damage caused to property or people when an insurance-related accident occurs.

GAB Robins boss Caitriona Somers said the worst affected areas were in Dublin, with Blanchardstown in west Dublin, Santry and Finglas in north Dublin, Blackhorse Avenue in the north inner city, and towns like Skerries, Lusk, Swords and Malahide in north County Dublin suffering big damage.

The firm was also assessing major damage in Newcastlewest, Co Limerick, and Omeath in Louth.

"The cost of the damage is shaping up to be between €50m and €100m," Ms Somers said. This meant it was inevitable that premiums would rise.

Chief executive of the Irish Insurance Federation Mike Kemp said the total cost of the clean-up was likely to top the €34m cost of the October 2004 floods.

Mr Kemp said that premiums paid on property insurance, made up of domestic and commercial, amounted to just over €1bn last year.

Allianz's Damien O'Neill said his company was expecting "substantial" claims.

"It is very early to say, but it does seem that the claims are likely to be substantial. It is very harrowing for the people concerned, but there is also likely to be an increase in premiums for everyone."

As insurance companies braced themselves for a spate of claims, communities across the country were counting the cost of the devastation.

A terrified 17-year-old motorist was rescued from his car near Arigna in Co Roscommon after becoming trapped between landslides and rising floodwaters.

And nearby, despite pleadings from the emergency services, an 80-year-old man refused to leave his home, which was threatened with being swept away by landslides.

In Sligo, floodwaters poured into a local community centre only built last year, while a landslide covered the recently laid sports pitch.

The centre at Geevagh was due to be officially opened on Monday week, but within a hour the ground floor of the centre, which houses a gym and changing rooms, was covered to a depth of three feet.

"We're devastated," said the centre's project manager, Helen Sweeney, who added that the local community had raised €140,000 towards the cost of the €1m venture.

In Co Mayo, a community appealed to Environment Minister John Gormley to immediately put measures in place to prevent a repeat of a series of landslides that devastated the area five years ago.

Pobal Chill Chomain community group, which represents families in the Glengad and Dooncarton area, said people were deeply concerned about a recurrence of the disaster that struck in 2003 after a landslide destroyed several properties.

The group said it expected the minister to apply the precautionary principle to prevent another damaging event from occurring.

But a Department of the Environment spokesman said it was not a matter for the minister and it was up to the local authority to assess any risk of landslide and act accordingly.

The National Roads Authority confirmed it would be taking part in a comprehensive review of flood-hit areas along with the relevant local authorities, including Fingal and Meath county councils.

Overnight flooding affected up to half the county of Meath, from Navan to the coast, with several roads left impassable. Stretches of the rivers Boyne and Nanny burst their banks, adding to the problem. Worst-hit areas included Skreen, Walterstown, Kentstown and Lismullen.

Meath County Council will now investigate whether any remedial works need to be carried out in the flood-hit areas.