Lenders offer loan relief to flood victims
Widespread and persistent rain falling over New South Wales and southern Queensland, caused by “a powerful high pressure system over the southern Tasman Sea”, brought flash flooding and damaging winds to the region , leaving families displaced, properties damaged and some communities cut off.
In light of the flooding, several lenders have already started offering financial support packages to their clients, with most offering:
- A postponement of scheduled loan repayments (home loans, personal loans, business loans, etc.);
- Waiver of fees and charges, including break fees on early access to term deposits;
- Debt consolidation to facilitate the management of repayments;
- Restructuring of existing loans without the usual set-up costs;
- Defer or “personalize” interest payments (on a case-by-case basis);
- Offer additional financing or emergency credit limit increases to help cover cash shortages;
- Defer future credit card payments; and
- Increase emergency credit card limits.
Lenders also offer their insurance clients emergency accommodation and expedited insurance claims.
All affected customers are encouraged to contact their credit or banking institution directly if they need assistance.
Australian Banking Association CEO Anna Bligh said: “Once the cleanup begins, it’s important people know they can speak to their bank for help.
“The message from the banks is clear: don’t worry about it on your own, your bank is ready to help you”.
The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment and Disaster Recovery Allowance have also now has been activated by the federal government to support those who have been affected, suffered significant loss or injury, or whose income has been affected.
The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment provides non-means-tested payments of $1,000 for eligible adults and $400 for eligible children.
Wild weather expected until Wednesday
At the time of writing this report, evacuation orders were in place for 28 areas, and another 16 areas had received an evacuation warning.
In northern New South Wales, there were 35 isolated communities, including Taree, Bellingen, Wingham, Harrington and Laurieton.
Parts of NSW are experiencing the worst flooding in over 50 years, and the Hawkesbury Nepean Valley has seen record rainfall, with the Hawkesbury River reaching levels not seen since 1961.
Roads in some areas are cut off by water, and there is an increased risk of landslides and falling trees during this time.
Major flood warnings are now in place for the Colo River, Hastings River, Hawkesbury River, Macleay River and Wollombi Creek.
On Saturday March 20, 500 gigaliters of water – said to be the equivalent of releasing the capacity of all of Sydney Harbor – was released from Warragamba Dam in 24 hours.
Across New South Wales, 1,400 State Emergency Service first responders performed more than 700 flood rescues and responded to more than 7,500 requests for assistance.
A low-pressure trough that formed in western New South Wales also brought heavy rain, which is expected to reach the Tasman Sea later today (March 23), with the potential to form a low-pressure system that could bring increased precipitation, strong winds, damaging waves and abnormally high tides to the east and south, according to the Bureau of Meterology (BOM).
Strong waves and abnormally high tides can also cause seawater flooding in low-lying areas, BOM warned.
In addition to the warnings for NSW, BOM has issued a severe weather warning for western and southern Queensland, which could extend to the southeast coast this morning (March 23), and a number of warnings Flood warnings also remain in place for parts of the state.
Most parts of NSW will see a clearing pattern early Wednesday as a drier air mass moves through the region.
“Australia is tested again”
Speaking in Parliament on Monday March 22, Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted that “Australia is being tested again” as New South Wales and parts of southeast Queensland face “an extraordinary deluge “.
Mr Morrison acknowledged, thanked and ‘paid tribute’ to the ‘extraordinary efforts of our volunteers and emergency services to respond to these terrible events’, saying it was ‘very difficult and dangerous work’ .
He warned: “And there is still a serious risk ahead.
“Heavy rainfall is expected to continue over much of the eastern half of New South Wales and southern Queensland [on Tuesday]…heavy falls will also develop over inland parts of northern and central New South Wales, bringing the risk of sudden and significant river flooding in several additional catchments.
“A different low pressure system is also expected to form off the south coast of New South Wales, bringing precipitation there as well.
“Fortunately, current forecasts indicate that conditions are improving across the state as of Wednesday morning, but we’ll watch and see.”
Mr Morrison said he was working “closely” with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian as the floods unfolded.
“This is an ongoing and evolving situation which is extremely dangerous,” the prime minister said.
“We meet regularly to be informed of events and guide our response. We are grateful at this point that no lives have been lost so far, but the weakened foundations of buildings, roads and trees all create risks, as do downed power lines and rising waters.
“We therefore ask all Australians in these affected areas to exercise caution.
“Check in on your neighbors and those you know who are alone,” he said.
“Please heed the advice of the authorities. Where there are evacuation orders, please follow them.
He continued: ‘It will be a very difficult week for hundreds of thousands of Australians, if not more, as we face the immediacy of flooding, and there will be many difficult months ahead as clean up and recovery from this natural disaster is getting under way.
“We have very capable agencies in our state governments. They are very good at dealing with these types of emergencies. They are doing a terrific job at the moment and the Australian Government is standing by them to ensure they can deliver in these most pressing times.
“But above all, we rely, as we have for a long time, on the Australians themselves. They showed as much as we could together that we can pull it off when we work together.
“And that is what we will do in the hours, days, weeks and months to come, responding to this disaster like those that have preceded it, then rebuilding and recovering afterward,” said Mr Morrison.
Police departments are reminding the public to “exercise caution” as regions brace for further rainfall and many river systems have yet to peak.
“Police and SES messaging has been consistent over the past few days – if possible avoid going out and if driving, plan ahead – watch out for RMS message signs for road closures or unsafe conditions, and never drive, ride or drive through flood waters,” said NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Gary Worboys.
“Do not put your life or the lives of emergency service personnel at risk,” he said.
The Services Australia Disaster Assistance telephone lines are open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The number is 180 22 66 and more details are available at www.disasterassist.gov.au website.
[Related: LATEST PODCAST: Flood relief and CBA’s new BNPL product]