Wildfires are common in Australia. But officials are concerned that the early-spring fires currently ripping through Queensland and New South Wales are an omen of what’s to come. Over 630 firefighters are currently tacking more than 130 separate fires across the two states.
Around 400 residents have been evacuated from their homes and are staying in shelters. It is believed 26 houses have been completely destroyed and 73 others have sustained damage.
Despite firefighters working tirelessly to bring the fires under control, officials announced yesterday that it is possible they will take weeks to distinguish. Dry terrain, low humidity and wind are all contributing to the spread of the fires.
So far, one firefighter has been seriously injured in New South Wales, but there has been no deaths or injuries in Queensland.
What to do if you are already in southeast Australia
Holidaymakers in the region will understandably be concerned about the fires and may wish to return home to the UK. Those who have booked through a package holiday provider should speak to the company directly and discuss the options available to them.
Holidaymakers who have booked their holiday individually will need to check their travel insurance policy. Some policies will offer to cover a ‘major incident’ or ‘force majeure’ as standard, others may have offered this as an ‘add-on’ when the policy was purchased. This cover extends to transport costs to move to a safer area or return home, alternative accommodation and costs for refreshments. A couple of travel insurance policies will also offer to cover the cost of baby essentials and/or prescription medication if holidaymakers are delayed returning home to the UK and do not have enough supplies.
This cover will only be available if the wildfires began after departure from the UK. Those intending to claim on their travel insurance policy should keep all receipts as evidence.
What to do if you are due to travel to southeast Australia
Similar to above, holidaymakers who have purchase their holiday as part of a package deal should contact the company who sold them the trip. However, unless the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised against travel to the region, the company is under no legal obligation to refund or amend the booking. It is worth speaking to the company directly as terms and conditions will differ and some may offer good will gestures.
Those who booked their holiday individually and are yet to travel should check their travel insurance policy’s cancellation options. Most travel insurance policies will only offer cancellation cover for specific reasons, but others will provide cancellation of any cause. Alternatively, if the policy offers cover for force majeure it may be possible to claim back the cost of the holiday.
This cover will only be available if the policy was purchased before the wildfires began.