Darfield Quake Claims Flood In

In the three weeks since the Darfield earthquake struck, claims have been flowing in to disaster insurer, EQC.

Saturday 25th September 2010

The magnitude 7.1 earthquake which struck near Darfield on September 4th caused widespread damage to built structures in Canterbury and dramatically changed the landscape above the previously unknown earthquake fault.

Within three days, disaster insurer EQC had received 21,800 claims for damage to residential property in Canterbury allowing it to firm up projections that the earthquake will result in a claims bill of 1-2 billion dollars.

By September 19th claims had reached 62,015 and EQC had assessed close to 2,000 properties and started paying out on claims. 3,000 homes had been inspected in areas where liquefaction had occurred, with 2,737 homes reported as uninhabitable, and 3,053 identified as not weatherproof.

Claims are expected to exceed 100,000 in number.

EQC normally runs a skeleton operation but has unique plans to rapidly scale-up the size of its workforce in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Its contact centre is based in Australia in an attempt to ensure that it will operate following a large event anywhere in New Zealand. Following an event, the number of agents answering calls is increased from a skeleton crew, and field offices are established to co-ordinate work in the immediate area of the emergency.

This is the first time that EQC’s operational plans have been tested to the full, the Darfield quake affecting more people than the big Gisborne earthquake of 2007 and recent flood events in Southland, Manawatu and Northland. Lessons are being learnt, with the scale-up of the contact centre insufficient during the first few days when callers encountered overloaded lines and insufficient call centre agents were allocated.

Three field offices had been established in Canterbury by September 19th, with about 300 staff in the area, 210 of them involved in damage assessment. It is expected that EQC will establish more than ten field offices in Canterbury, each with a staff of about 40 comprising loss adjusters, estimators, engineers and support staff.

Spring is a wet time of year and securing and waterproofing damaged houses has been a priority, necessitating emergency repairs once damaged chimneys have been dismantled. EQC’s policy on emergency repairs can be found on their website.

Life has returned to near normality for many residents of Christchurch city and Canterbury, but notable pockets of disruption still exist with occupied houses without sewage and reticulated water. As the immediacy of the emergency fades and the aftershocks become less frequent, residents with condemned houses and those still without essential services face the prospect of months of disruption. Most damaged roads have been patched and the disposal of a massive amount of debris and damaged goods is a continuing problem.

Nevertheless, Canterbury and its residents seem to have weathered the disaster well.

By midday Friday, EQC had recorded nearly 74,000 damage claims, nearly 60,000 of which were from Christchurch city. Selwyn residents had lodged 6,000 with about 4,500 lodged from the Waimakariri district.

In many respects there is still surprise that such a large quake happened so close to New Zealand’s second largest city affecting a population of 360,000. Recounting their experience of the quake a family member said they wondered how bad things were in Wellington as they got over their initial experience of the shaking and started to take in the damage. They have expected to wake up one morning and hear that this was happening in Wellington, not in Christchurch, and jumped to the conclusion that they had felt the effects of a bigger event “up north.” A sobering thought for those of us living in the capital.

[Compiled from EQC media releases and local reports from Cantabrians.]

One Response to “Darfield Quake Claims Flood In”

  1. Lizzie from Gizzie says:

    Didn’t know the Centre was in Australia, suppose that makes sense, hopefully Kiwis also work there! for local knowledge.

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