Losses from the Townsville floods have risen quickly to at least $606 million as claims continue to pour in.

Insurers have so far received 15,571 claims, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) said today as it seeks to assure affected communities the industry will respond “swiftly, fairly and compassionately” to the catastrophe.

About 10% of the claims lodged are from businesses, which explains the sharp rise in insured losses from the $186 million previously reported.

About 457 residential properties deemed unlivable are on the insurers’ high priority list. The industry has already provided $17.5 million in support, emergency accommodation and repairs.

And on February 25, ICA will hold the first of two forums in Townsville to provide claims guidance for household and commercial policyholders.

“The deployment of resources and expertise by insurers has been the fastest response to a catastrophe on record, despite Townsville being inaccessible in the aftermath of the floods,” ICA CEO Rob Whelan said today.

“ICA is collecting data to analyse the full impact of the floods on the city, its households and businesses.”

Insurers are aware from long experience that at this stage of the post-disaster process they are walking a tightrope of public expectation, with the Queensland Government warning against using so-called “loopholes” to deny claims.

The comment from Deputy Premier Jackie Trad came as affected policyholders, mainly businesses, realise they are not covered for flood damage.

“Queenslanders that have lost everything deserve fair treatment,” Ms Trad tweeted after a meeting with insurers today.

“I’ve clearly outlined to the CEOs of major insurers the Government’s expectations around the handling of claims after the north Queensland floods.”

Mr Whelan says most households “chose to buy policies that cover them for flood, though some may have opted out”.

“However, though many Townsville businesses affected by the catastrophe did buy flood cover, ICA is concerned that a significant number chose not to purchase flood cover.”

According to ICA, commercial flood cover has been available for Townsville businesses since 2007, a point that was highlighted at today’s meeting with Ms Trad and other Townsville council representatives.

“Where flood cover was not purchased it will typically be tested by the insurer through an independent hydrology process,” Mr Whelan said after the meeting. “This will determine if the inundation that caused the damage is to be classified as flood water or as storm water.”