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Insurers brace as Cyclone Gita looms

Insurers brace as Cyclone Gita looms after 2017's record extreme event claims

By Paul McBeth

Feb. 19 (BusinessDesk) - The threat of ex-tropical Cyclone Gita looming over the lower North Island and parts of the South Island has spurred authorities to put residents and customers on notice, and comes after a record number of extreme event claims were settled last year.

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management is among agencies urging people to prepare for heavy rain and high winds when Cyclone Gita hits land, probably tomorrow or Wednesday. Civil Defence's director Sarah Stuart-Black said in a statement that people should prepare for the possibility of power cuts, water outages and road closures, while Wellington City mayor Justin Lester said commuters should make early decisions about whether to stay home or delay their trip if the ex-cyclone hits the region.

The Insurance Council has issued similar advice, with chief executive Tim Grafton urging West Coast residents in particular, to take the appropriate precautions given the region's recent storms.

"The rain will bring surface flooding so it’s important people check their drains and gutters are free of blockages. This can prevent more damaging flooding if rain doesn’t abate quickly,"
Grafton said. "Gita is also forecast to bring strong winds, especially in exposed places."

Insurers paid out $2.55 billion on extreme event claims last year, across 39,000 claims form the Kaikoura earthquake, 25,500 on weather events around the country, and 2,070 on lingering Canterbury quake claims.

Of that, 9,186 claims totalling $108.7 million were from Cyclones Debbie and Cook last April, which caused the evacuation of Edgcumbe residents and were the most damaging storms since the lower North Island was hit in February 2004.


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