KZN storm: insurance claims flood in

Insurance companies have been inundated with damage claims from the greater Durban area after the freak waves and violent weather of the past few days.

The eThekwini Municipality has not released any preliminary estimates on the extent of storm damage to municipal property yet, but the KwaZulu-Natal government said damage to roads, beaches and other government infrastructure on the South Coast alone was expected to cost at least R500-million to repair.

The Standard Bank alone had received more than 700 claims from home owners and businesses on Tuesday.

Spokesperson Ross Lynstrom said the claims covered both the severe wind and lightning in the Durban area last Thursday night, as well as damage to private property on the coast caused by 7m high swells earlier this week.

He said many of the claims came from the La Lucia and Umhlanga area, and extra insurance assessors had been sent to Durban to speed up the claims and repair process.

The company had agreed to pay for the cost of alternative accommodation and the hiring of security guards for claimants who had been evacuated from damaged homes.

Lynstrom and Hollard Insurance spokesperson Zuriel Naicker did not respond directly to questions on whether insurance groups might exclude certain claims on the basis that they were "acts of God", noting that claims would be dealt with individually.

Naicker said Hollard had already paid out several claims and was busy evaluating losses to clients. He warned that claims for damaged flooring or carpets were paid out according to a calculated percentage of the total insured value.

"Twenty years ago, for example, a house may have been bought for R50 000 and insured for that sum, but never adjusted. Today, with modern kitchen and bathroom renovations, the addition of a granny flat, a swimming pool and landscaping, the property could be worth R1-million.

"If the carpets and flooring in that imaginary house was ruined today, it could easily cost R50 000 to repair. But that would be the total sum insured if the house was totally destroyed. The percentage claimable out of the R50 000 total, for the partial damage, wouldn't cover the repair job at today's prices."

Inevitably, some property owners are getting frustrated over rejected claims.

Ivan Govender, of Bonito Avenue in Isipingo Beach, said his insurance company had already rejected his claim for flood-damaged furniture.

"These companies are quick to take your money, but they put up a big fuss when you try to claim. Some of the call centre staff are also completely incompetent," said an angry Govender.

He said a call centre employee in Johannesburg seemed incapable of grasping the fact that his home had been flooded by knee-deep sea water.

"This man kept asking me questions about the type of burst geyser which caused the flood damage to my home."

Govender had taken the precaution of building a 1.2m high concrete wall around his home to prevent damage from further sea surges.

Meanwhile, KZN Premier S'bu Ndebele has commended the people of KZN for the manner in which they rallied together during the adverse weather.

He said that officials from several provincial government departments were meeting yesterday to assess the impact of the storm and wave damage.

Daniel Stevens, of insurance group Santam, estimated that the waves that pounded the Durban beachfront on Monday had generated insurance claims of about R2,5-million so far - a figure that was likely to grow as clean-up operations continued and claimants came forward.

  • This article was originally published on page 3 of The Mercury on March 21, 2007

Article by: Tony Carnie -