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Summer east coast low in top three: Perils

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Swiss catastrophe data company Perils says February storms and floods have caused the third-largest Australian east coast low insurance losses in three decades.

East coast lows are very intense low-pressure systems classified as extratropical cyclones that can affect an area extending from Southeast Queensland to the NSW-Victoria border.

Perils says the February 5-13 east coast low was a typical example and caused property losses of $794 million, based on an initial estimate reflecting data collected from affected insurers.

An east coast low in June 2007 caused losses of $2.4 billion, using “as-if-today” adjusted figures, while a similar event in April 2015 cost insurers an estimated $1.2 billion, the group says.

The February event was triggered by a low-pressure trough, extending inland along the east coast, which drew in moisture from a warmer-than-usual Tasman Sea, particularly off Sydney.

The resulting heavy rainfall and flooding was accompanied in some areas by strong winds, a storm surge and high waves, causing widespread damage along coastal areas of Southeast Queensland and NSW.

The storms followed the declaration of bushfire catastrophes earlier in the summer and heavy hailstorms which also hit eastern states and the ACT.

“Whilst the east coast low caused significant property damage, the heavy rainfall refilled water catchment areas as well as bringing relief to many bushfire and drought-affected rural areas,” Perils Asia-Pacific Head Darryl Pidcock said.

Perils will update its east coast low loss estimate on May 13.