PHOTOS: Memories of 1998 flood still raw

Rosemary Diggle still sheds a tear as she recalls the 1998 floods that swept through Wollongong.

Fifteen years ago, on August 17, 1998, Wollongong recorded 316 millimetres of rain in less than 24 hours. The deluge cause millions of dollars in damage to properties.

Drains across Wollongong failed to cope with the torrential downpour including one near the Diggles' home in Colgong Crescent, Towradgi.

Initially most insurance companies refused to cover the damage, arguing that the damage was a result of floodwaters rather than the storm.

After a strong community campaign, major insurers NRMA and GIO found a way to start paying out claims and most others followed. But a handful - including the Diggles' insurer, QBE - stood firm.

For the Diggles, August 17 is a reminder of the months of hardship they suffered and the $60,000 contents claim they never received from QBE.

Frank Diggle remembers the initial shock of seeing water come up through the floorboards, before the family fled to the attic.

"We looked out the window and the lawn looked glassy," he said.

"I never experienced anything like it and hopefully will never again.

"The car was half under water - that was covered by a pensioner insurance agency, and they paid."

Months of cleaning up followed, with the Diggles put up by friends.

The clean-up was that much harder given that their neighbours started having claims paid by other insurance companies.

"In the end QBE offered us a couple of thousand dollars to sue the council, but we refused to do that," Mr Diggle said.

Fifteen years later the Diggles now call Horsley home, but they still feel cheated.

They still get angry every time they hear a profit announcement, and each time they see a QBE logo on a sporting team.

"It wasn't fair - we were with QBE for quite a few years paying insurance," he said.

"When it came to the crunch, their big profits didn't help us."

A QBE Australia spokeswoman said in 1998, after the significant storms and flooding in Wollongong, that QBE Insurance Ltd (QBE) and Western QBE (WQBE) had adhered to the policy wording at the time, which excluded damage by flood.

The spokeswoman said the policy of insurance held by the Diggles did not cover flood damage, and this position was upheld after review by Insurance, Enquiries and Complaints Limited, now known as the Financial Ombudsman Service.

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