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Catastrophic hail storm causes $195m damage and counting

The RACQ was quick to describe the election-day destruction as the most damaging Brisbane hail event since a freak storm in 2014.

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After already raising the alert about “disaster chasers” descending on the worst-hit suburbs, Insurance Council of Australia’s Campbell Fuller said the organisation has also received reports of a towing scam.

“Most tow truck drivers operate legally and respectfully, but some cowboys in the industry are seeking to exploit vulnerable householders,” he said.

Mr Fuller said the council had received reports of drivers approaching storm victims, claiming the government or insurance company had sent them to tow damaged cars for repairs.

“Just from us speaking to two insurance companies, we are now aware of more than a dozen cases and it’s likely that is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

“This is known as car capture – once the tow truck business has control of the car, they can charge not only a towing fee but storage and vehicle release fees before the car can be repaired.

“These fees are often in the hundreds or thousands of dollars over time. Damaged vehicle owners are being emotionally manipulated into signing agreements on the spot.

“This behaviour is certainly seen as unsavoury, in some cases on the edge of legality or even illegal.

“If car owners whose cars have been affected by hailstones are approached by anyone claiming to have permission to remove vehicles or encourage them to sign any documents, they should contact their insurer first.

“An insurer will never send a tow truck driver to collect a car without letting the owner know first and without providing the owner with details about what can be expected.”

Naomi Thompson's Springfield Lake home was damaged by the storm: "House destroyed, roof collapsed, all 3 cars destroyed", she wrote on Facebook.

Naomi Thompson’s Springfield Lake home was damaged by the storm: “House destroyed, roof collapsed, all 3 cars destroyed”, she wrote on Facebook.Credit:Naomi Thompson, Facebook

Earlier, Insurance Council chief executive Andrew Hall said some workers were falsely claiming they had been sent by an insurer and offering urgent inspections or repairs for cash.

Saturday’s storm dumped hail of up to 14 centimetres across a swathe of suburbs to Brisbane’s west and south and also hit parts of the Sunshine Coast.

Some real estate offices have been working to help people affected by the storm at the weekend, with one reporting seven of the 50 homes they assessed were “uninhabitable”.

The Springfield Lakes YMCA community centre has been set up a support hub with in-person access to insurance providers. Restaurants and supermarkets were handing out meals and bottled water to affected residents.

Lee Clark, who lives in Springfield Lakes with her husband and three children, said they had been staying with a neighbour after their home was “absolutely demolished” by the hail.

The Clark home after the hail storm.

The Clark home after the hail storm.

The couple had been forced to “throw [their] kids under the mattress” as the hail smashed its way into almost every room in their house.

“One piece was about a foot away from my eldest boy,” Ms Clark said. The family has been able to secure a lease on another home after a social media callout and will be “happy” to move back in before Christmas 2021.

“The community in Springfield Lakes has been so good,” she said.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced emergency hardship grants of up to $900 a family were available.

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