Large parts of NSW have been declared a "catastrophe" zone, as devastating floods continue to push the sodden state to its limits.

After thousands of NSW residents were ordered to leave their homes, the Insurance Council of Australia made the declaration on Tuesday, meaning the insurance industry will escalate and prioritise their response to affected policyholders.

The massive task of cleaning up from the floods. Picture: Nathan Edwards
The massive task of cleaning up from the floods. Picture: Nathan Edwards

ICA CEO Andrew Hall said while it was still too early to understand the extent of damage to property and to estimate the insurance damage bill, already more than 5000 claims had been made.

"The insurance industry has made this Catastrophe Declaration to activate services and support for affected homeowners and businesses, and reassure them that their insurer is there to help," Mr Hall said.

"As many areas are currently inaccessible due to floodwater, insurers are expecting further claims in coming days as emergency services allow residents to return to their properties to examine the extent of their damage and losses."


A disaster hotline (1800 734 621) has been activated to assist policyholders, while ICA representatives will begin working with local agencies and services as soon as it is safe to do so.

An industry task-force has also been established to "identify and address" issues arising from the catastrophe.

When it is safe to return to your property, ICA recommends residents do the following:

• Safety is the priority - don't do anything that puts anyone at risk

• Only return to your property when emergency services give the go ahead

• If water has entered the property, don't turn on your electricity until it has been inspected by an electrician

• Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to lodge a claim and seek guidance on the claims process

• You can start cleaning up but first take pictures or videos of damage to the property

and possessions as evidence for your claim

• Keep samples of materials and fabrics to show your insurance assessor

• Remove water or mud-damaged goods from your property that might pose a health risk, such as saturated carpets and soft furnishings

• Make a list of each item damaged and include a detailed description, such as brand, model and serial number if possible

• Store damaged or destroyed items somewhere safe

• Speak to your insurer before you attempt or authorise any building work, including emergency repairs, and ask for the insurer's permission in writing. Unauthorised work may not be covered by your policy

• Do not throw away goods that could be salvaged or repaired.

Originally published as NSW floods declared a 'catastrophe'

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