German official calls for compulsory flood insurance

BERLIN, June 3 Tue Jun 3, 2014 9:44am EDT

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BERLIN, June 3 (Reuters) - Property owners in Germany should be required to insure against floods and other natural hazards, a senior German government official said on Tuesday, seeing this as a way of spreading the cost of disaster cover.

"We would do well to introduce an affordable insurance against natural hazards for everybody," Florian Pronold, parliamentary state secretary in Germany's Environment Ministry, told an industry conference, despite objections from the insurance industry which sees obligatory insurance as unnecessary.

Insurers paid out 1.8 billion euros ($2.5 billion) on 140,000 damage claims from last year's severe flooding in southern and eastern Germany, but this was only a fraction of the total as many properties were uninsured.

About 85 percent of damage came from areas well away from those considered at high risk for floods.

German insurance industry body GDV said providing better information to homeowners on the risks of damage from floods, heavy snow or landslides was better than creating a government-mandated programme.

"Obligatory insurance is a last resort and I would warn against introducing such an measure now," GDV President Alexander Erdland told the conference.

The GDV says 99 percent of all buildings can be insured privately, while only about one house in three has flood insurance.

The GDV represents 140 member companies including major industry players like Allianz, Munich Re and Talanx.

Lars Gatschke, representing the Federation of German Consumer Organisations at the conference, said introducing obligatory natural hazard insurance made sense as long as it was kept affordable and did not detract from efforts aimed at prevention. ($1 = 0.7349 Euros) (Writing by Jonathan Gould; Editing by David Holmes)

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