Mid West residents still reeling from the effects of cyclone Seroja are calling for the Government to put pressure on insurance companies which they say have “made life hell” since the catastrophic storm ravaged their properties. Four months after the devastating April 11 storm in which properties from 16 different local government areas were damaged, thousands of residents are still using tarpaulins as temporary roofs during winter and struggling to get the ball rolling on insurance claims. Cereal and sheep farmer Michaela Simpson, who had just finished a 15-year renovation on her family home outside of Northampton when the cyclone hit, said the after-effects were far worse than the traumatic night in April. “The night of the cyclone myself, my husband, our four kids and our dog were crammed in our bathroom under a bed ensemble as the ceiling and roof was ripped off our house,” she said. “Our house was completely destroyed, along with multiple sheds and other farm infrastructure. Since then I’ve been spending about 40 hours per week on the phone with our insurance company trying to get some help. “It really has been never-ending. We give them everything they ask for and then they come back for more.” Ms Simpson said she knew of countless other residents in the same situation, and hoped the State and Federal Governments would put pressure on insurance companies to process claims. “They (the insurance companies) show no understanding of how hard this is on the family and the community — they’re making life really difficult,” she said. “The Government need to find out why they are making it so hard for us families after we’ve lost so much.” Now living in temporary accommodation some 30km from Northampton in Horrocks, Ms Simpson said her four kids, all aged between four and nine years old, had been traumatised by the experience and got nervous the roof was going to be ripped off whenever poor weather rolled in. Northampton resident Jacqueline Teakle-Bom also had her house ripped apart by the cyclone while she hid in the bathroom with her husband and two children. “Obviously it was really scary for the kids to see our house destroyed by the cyclone,” she said. “I was singing to them throughout the storm to try and calm them down. “The house has been sitting damaged for so long the wooden beams have grown a thick layer of mould.” Echoing Ms Simpson’s calls, Northampton Cyclone Response Committee spokesperson Rob Horstman said while there were some good insurance companies, the experience for most victims had been frustrating. “A lot of these insurance companies are woefully under-resourced when it comes to Western Australia, and even more so when it comes to regional WA,” he said. “People in the country are used to being under-resourced but when you’re faced with the scope of damage they are, it’s just not good enough. “It shouldn’t be an excuse.” Mr Horstman said 270 victims had recently had their claims escalated to be viewed by a Federal body, but he hoped that was just the start. “Geraldton is 50km down the road and you wouldn’t know anything happened if you’re there, but if you come to Northampton you’ll see it’s still like a war zone when you drive down some of the streets,” he said. “The cyclone was four months ago but for many of the affected families life goes on — kids get sick, you still need to do the shopping, you still need to try to have some normalcy around life, but that’s all going on while you have people living in sheds.” Recent questions in State Parliament from shadow health minister Shane Love on the number of people in affected areas seeking mental health services revealed services in Kalbarri had been increased from three to five days per week to cope with the demand. North West Central MLA Vince Catania said insurance companies had “their foot on the hose” when it came to providing payments, and called on the State Government to investigate what could be done to expedite the process. An Insurance Council of Australia spokesperson said insurers acknowledged and understood the frustration of some residents at the pace of repairs, and were doing everything they could to resolve claims. The spokesperson said border closures in response to COVID-19 had prevented critical workers from being deployed to the affected areas to assess damage. “The State Government has not approved the ICA’s request to allow an exemption for these workers, including insurance assessors and disaster managers, however, discussions are continuing as the ICA would like a notionally consistent approach to this issue which is also affecting other States,” they said. “International border restrictions are also limiting the supply of builders and tradies, for example from New Zealand, who would normally supplement the local workforce. “The pandemic has also caused global material shortages, including timber and steel. “Builders are reporting delays of eight to 10 weeks for critical building materials and components.” There have been 6500 claims lodged, with 99.8 per cent accepted and more than 37 per cent closed. Approximately 4000 claims are still outstanding. The current estimated loss value is $268 million.