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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Queensland floods continue

ELEANOR HALL: The insurance industry warned today that the cost of the Queensland floods is up dramatically, as more residents lodge their claims but a sense of normality is returning to parts of the flood-weary state with thousands of children heading back to school this week.
Psychologists say the routine should be reassuring to students but that parents and teachers must be alert for signs of distress.

In Brisbane, Jason Om reports.

JASON OM: Classes are back on at the 92 schools affected by the floods. Wendy Smith has taken some of her six children to a primary school at Graceville, one of the worst-affected Brisbane suburbs.

WENDY SMITH: The kids are looking forward to coming to school and being with their friends. They need to be with their friends so they can all talk about what's happened and realise that things are going to go on and be normal.

JASON OM: She hopes the start of the school year will return order to their lives.

WENDY SMITH: The older ones, they sort of realise more what's been happening but being with their friends has been important and then the younger ones, it's yeah, it's just an adventure for them so just letting them know that everything is okay.

JASON OM: The upheaval will have had a profound effect. Disruption, devastation and even death will have the students asking many questions.

JANE SHAKESPEARE-FINCH: Children will have varying reactions. Some will be scared, some will be feeling anxious, some will be feeling a little bit unsure about what's happening net.

JASON OM: Senior lecturer in psychology at QUT, Dr Jane Shakespeare-Finch says the children need to feel safe now that the disaster is over.

JANE SHAKESPEARE-FINCH: A sense of safety is vital for kids to feel comfortable knowing that, knowing what will happen next is a really important thing, predictability of the world and that is what happened for a lot of children in this flood was that it took away their view of the world being a predictable place and we need to re-establish that idea of predictability and safety.

JASON OM: Dr Shakespeare-Finch says trauma could show itself in different ways.

JANE SHAKESPEARE-FINCH: With children in particular in the long term, trauma can manifest itself in the body so for example there might be unexplained headaches or stomach aches or aching legs or a sense of being dizzy. Things that look like they are physical but they are actually the body remembering trauma.

JASON OM: At Oxley State School, teachers are keeping watch.

KARYN ABRAHAM: For the children today is a very important day. They will see control in this situation because they can predict the situation. Everything that has gone on at home for the last two weeks, they couldn't predict.

JASON OM: Grade six teacher Karyn Abraham will discuss the disaster with her class as she explains to ABC Local Radio.

KARYN ABRAHAM: We will give them the opportunity to talk about it in a controlled way and then move on. Really importantly, what we are looking at is that they have, the floods are finished. A lot of children don't actually understand because we see it on the news constantly and we are all still talking about it.

JASON OM: The financial cost of the floods continues to mount. So far, there have been more than 31,000 insurance claims at a cost of $1.2 billion. Only recently that figure was $400 million but the chief executive of the Insurance Council of Australia Bob Whelan says claims have risen sharply as people assess the damage.

BOB WHELAN: It is just people being able to get back into their homes, do a bit of a clean-up, do a bit of an assessment of what they've lost or had damaged and of course our assessors from the various insurance companies have now had access to a number of areas and have been able to lodge those claims and provide an estimated value of the loss.

JASON OM: What are you expecting in the next few weeks then? How far will that bill rise?

BOB WHELAN: Look, I won't speculate as to the quantum but I would expect we'll have further claims to come in and we'll still see some reasonable rises in the number of claims in the insurable losses coming through over the next couple of weeks. It just takes time for people to get those claims in and for them to be processed and reported back through to us.

JASON OM: This sum doesn't include industrial and mining claims on it?

BOB WHELAN: No, it doesn't. It is only households, personal household and motor vehicle so some 76 per cent of this is personal property, household property and the other 24 per cent are motor vehicle claims.

JASON OM: The cost of flood recovery is expected to be in the billions of dollars. Today, the Federal Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten will meet business leaders in Brisbane to see how they can help foot the bill.


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