Tropical cyclone Seroja; major asset loss with 17 members impacted

Risk Matters - Spring 2023

Tropical cyclone Seroja hit the WA coast in April 2021 as a Category 3 cyclone affecting many members. The cyclone brought damaging wind gusts of up to 170km/hr along with heavy rainfall. Our members across the Mid-West and Wheatbelt regions of the state reported widespread damage, destroyed homes, and power outages.

The Insurance Council of Australia declared TC Seroja an ‘insurance catastrophe’ with a total of 875 buildings damaged and a damage bill of over $200 million.

Areas impacted by TC Seroja

Northampton, Perenjori, Mingenew, Morawa, Greater Geraldton, Three Springs, Mt Marshall, Bruce Rock, Carnarvon, Westonia, Carnamah, Merredin, Koorda, Mukinbudin, Nungarin, Dalwallinu and Chapman Valley

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Aquatic Facility Equipotential Bonding

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The pathway of TC Seroja across Western Australia
Figure 1: Pathway of TC Seroja across Western Australia

The damage

This was a rare event for people on the central west coast of WA and many properties in the affected area were not constructed to withstand Category 3 cyclone impact. Many of the damaged properties contained asbestos building material resulting in extensive contamination across much of the impacted area.

Significant damage was reported to buildings, roofing, fencing, vegetation, trees, landscape and infrastructures.

The buildings were not cyclone rated (in line with existing building codes) and were damaged beyond repair; the majority of buildings and assets were declared total losses in the most heavily impacted local government area, Northampton.

Common types of property damages caused due to cyclone:

  • Roofs blown away due to failure of rusted fasteners, roof battens and other roof components.
  • Structural damage to buildings caused by cyclone winds, failure of inadequately secured gutters, flashings, fascia and eaves, damage to building contents.
  • Damage to fence, pools, patios, doors and windows blown open due to inadequate fixing to walls or inadequate locks and door sets.
  • Collapse of unreinforced masonry walls.
  • Property inundation and damage caused by storm tide.

LGIS immediately contacted the affected members and appointed an adjuster to guide and work together with the members. Consulting structural engineers were also engaged to examine the severely damaged properties to expedite assessment and repairs.

LGIS received a total number of 17 claims made under the Property Protection Policy and has paid $6.8M to date to affected members.

LGIS immediate response to crisis

  • Advance communication was sent to all members advising point of contact and reasonable precaution to be taken to minimise loss and safety.
  • Adjuster was appointed immediately to guide members in response to damage, and mitigation of loss and assessment.
  • Site visited by our senior management team to ensure clear communication and support from the various LGIS scheme offerings (e.g. EAP, OSH and Risk services).
  • Financial assistance was provided to assist member in their initial restoring of the properties by way of interim payments.

Lessons from this case

The defence in this case was strong because:

  • LGIS, adjusters and affected members need to have regular meetings to detail the extent of damage.
  • Engage builders and other trades as soon as possible, and prioritise cost assessment for damage and make safe.
  • Members need to make decisions on rebuilding or repair as early as possible – there needs to be clear communication of reinstatement strategy.
  • Members should adequately resource the rebuild/ repair process and ensure that senior officers have appropriate decision making authority.
  • Record keeping is vital - take photos, make an initial view on extent of loss, create a single source of truth for managing estimates (e.g. one loss spreadsheet and ensuring recovery costs are logged against a single cost centre).
  • Cyclone Seroja alone is the third largest claim event in the LGIS property fund’s history.

Have a question you'd like answered?

Each month we take your questions to one of our LGIS team members to answer.

If you want to submit a question for next issue, email us at [email protected]

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