Emergency

Australia fears a record-high price tag from natural disasters

SUSANNA LINDBÄCK

Never before has Australia been hit harder by natural disasters.

In recent months, the catastrophes have been on a rolling strip. After floods, tropical storms, earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis and bushfires, the nation’s costs are projected to be sky high.

The floods alone are estimated to be the most costly natural disaster the country has ever seen.

“The cost is likely to be even larger than we initially thought,” Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan said.

According to the Treasury Department’s report released on 2 April, the damages will cost the country several billions – or more specifically, $9.4 billion.

“No one was ever under any doubt that the financial toll of the devastation we’ve seen in Queensland and elsewhere in Australia this summer was going to be this substantial,” Swan said in a weekly economic note.

Cyclone Yasi raided through half of Queensland, flooded more than 500 thousand square kilometers, isolated more than 20 cities, killed 36 human lives and drowned thousands of homes.

Worst hit were the agriculture and commodity productions. With the coal industry output down by about a fifth, the finance minister has estimated the lost coal production to cost up to $6 billion dollars – 20 per cent more than first projected.

According to the Treasury report, some mining companies expect that the coal output may drop from previous forecasts by between 20 million tons and 30 million tons this year.

“The top end of this range is much higher than Treasury’s estimate of 22 million tons, and would amount to a hit of about $8 billion,” Mr Swan said.

Queensland alone accounts for more than 80 per cent of all coal exports in the country, and more than 30 per cent of the nation’s fruits and vegetables.

“The weather disruptions are expected to have hit resources and agriculture hardest,” Mr Swan said.

The destruction will in total cut the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by half a per cent until the end of June, he added.

“Weaker growth will clearly mean that revenues take a substantial hit in the near term. There will need to be some tough decisions in the (national) budget as we stick to our strict fiscal rules.”

VIDEO: Local people give their takes on the disasters’ impact.

Leave a Reply