THE INSURANCE Council of Australia has formally declared the bushfire-hit Forcett and Dunalley zone of south-east Tasmania a catastrophe.
The declaration covers the worst-affected areas of Forcett, Dunalley, Copping and Murdunna, and also includes Connellys Marsh, Boomer Bay, Primrose Sands, Susans Bay, Eaglehawk Neck and Taranna.
Chief executive Rob Whelan said the catastrophe declaration meant insurers would establish a taskforce to escalate the industry's response.
``It is much too early for the ICA to estimate the cost and extent of the damage, though we have had reports of several dozen homes having been badly damaged or destroyed,'' Mr Whelan said.
``The ICA is liaising with the Tasmanian Government, the Tasmanian Fire Service, State Emergency Service and local governments to get a more accurate assessment.
``The ICA expects to send a team to the disaster recovery centre tomorrow to work alongside emergency services, government agencies and community organisations to help.''
The ICA has the following advice for policyholders affected by bushfires:
Things to do to help the recovery process:
* Return to your property but only when emergency services declare it safe to do so
* Only enter your property when you are satisfied you are not at risk
* Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to check what your policy includes or excludes, and seek guidance on the claims process
* Start cleaning up
* Take pictures of damage to the property and possessions as evidence for your claim
* If possible, keep samples of materials and fabrics to show the assessor
* Make a list of each item and include a detailed description, such as brand, model and serial number
* Store damaged or destroyed items somewhere safe
* Speak to your insurer before authorising repairs. Emergency repairs should be undertaken only in the first instance to make the property safe
Things to be aware of in the recovery process:
* Do not do anything that puts your safety at risk
* Do not undertake major repairs or employ tradespeople without checking with your insurer you may not be covered for unauthorised repairs
* Do not drive your vehicle if it is not roadworthy due to fire damage
* Do not throw away goods that could be salvaged or repaired
* Do not be concerned if you cant find your insurance papers. Insurers have electronic records and need only your name and address
The ICA is now operating its disaster hotline - 1800 734 621 - to help people affected by the Tasmanian bushfires who are not sure which insurer they are with, or who have general inquiries about the claims process.