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Repairing the damage after Storm Desmond: reflections from the front-line

Mark Shepherd, Manager, General Insurance, ABI Mark Shepherd, Manager, General Insurance, ABI

The damage caused by Storm Desmond isn’t the first of its kind and sadly it won’t be the last – but every time I witness flooding of the type seen in Cumbria and other parts of the north-west, as I did on my visit last week, it takes my breath away. If you haven’t seen it first-hand you may find it hard to believe that water can be so destructive, but seeing the aftermath in person is shocking. For those whose homes and businesses have been inundated the experience is truly devastating.

When events like this happen, being there from day one to support customers through the recovery process is our utmost priority and an army of insurers, loss adjusters, damage management experts and specialist contractors have been all over the region getting that process well under way. As they should be. Incidents like this, while completely devastating, are precisely why people have insurance and insurers are committed to helping the affected communities recover as quickly as possible.

The full restoration of people’s homes and businesses will be a long-term job. In the short-term, Christmas is on the horizon and being unable to return to your home or the loss of personal possessions is felt more acutely at a time when people elsewhere will be celebrating. Insurers are making immediate payments to customers, not only for essentials and accommodation, but in many cases there are examples where they are going above and beyond with festive food and gifts. 

Incidents like this, while completely devastating, are precisely why people have insurance and insurers are committed to helping the affected communities recover as quickly as possible

I hope residents are finding some reassurance in the levels of activity that I saw during my visit. Loss adjusters were scurrying up and down one of the hardest hit streets in Carlisle, off Warwick Road, an area that knows only too well the devastation that floods can cause. Insurers and their teams were analysing the extent of damage and discussing with customers the plans for repairing and rebuilding of properties. Workers were inside many of the buildings installing the drying machines and getting the claims process moving. On a side street further up the road a crowd of contractors were restoring vital utility services like electricity and gas. You simply cannot move in Carlisle without coming across someone involved in the recovery effort, and that is likely to continue for many weeks.

The conditions companies and residents are working in are challenging and will remain so for some time. The number of bridges taken out of action by the flood waters means traffic congestion is an issue for many in the region, including insurers and their contractors, with more vehicles than usual trying to make their way to affected areas via detours and through disrupted roads. The rain and icy weather over the weekend will have added to the misery of trying to clear away sodden debris and we can only hope that the flood waters now stay away to allow the repair process to continue unhindered.

The resilience being displayed by the community in Cumbria and other affected areas is second to none. While buildings and belongings have been wrecked, some beyond repair, the spirit of those affected is quite remarkable. The work to get back to normal is under way and those affected will not be forgotten in the long months ahead.

Mark Shepherd is Manager, General Insurance at the ABI

Last updated 29/06/2016