More than $218 mln in Hurricane Matthew damage claims in Florida

WASHINGTON  - Property damage caused by Hurricane Matthew has spawned over $218 million in insurance claims so far in Florida, according to state officials, much less than the multi-billion dollar toll initially feared, but the figure is expected to rise.
The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation said in response to a Reuters query there had been more than 39,000 claims statewide as of Tuesday, about 90 percent of them for damage to residential property.
"We anticipate this number will grow as consumers return to their homes and assess the damage to their property and belongings," said Karen Kees, a spokeswoman for the state regulator. "It will take time for this process to be complete."
Matthew, which approached the Florida coast last week as a powerful Category 4 hurricane and killed more than 1,000 people in Haiti, stirred initial concern about the ability of Florida's private insurance market to cope with the aftermath.
It was the first hurricane to test the small private insurers that have come to dominate Florida's market over the past decade, as larger insurance companies pulled out after a series of powerful storms.
Analysts initially feared Matthew would become one of the costliest US hurricanes, with insurance losses of $25 billion to $30 billion.
But the storm weakened as it neared the US mainland and its center remained off the Florida coast, sparing local residents from more devastating damage.
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