UK INSURERS SCALE BACK FLOOD DAMAGE ESTIMATES

UK INSURERS SCALE BACK FLOOD DAMAGE ESTIMATES

British insurers are scaling down their estimates of the damage caused by flooding across much of southern England earlier this week.

With very little structural damage, earlier estimates that insurers may have to pay out UK100 million ($150 million) in claims were "wildly out," said Adrian Forber, a spokesman for the Association of British Insurers.A Lloyd's of London spokesman also said the floods are not a major insurance loss, but insurers said it is too soon to put a figure on the extent of claims.

Most of the claims probably will be for damaged furniture, ruined carpets and such, Mr. Forber said.

Although many homes in some of the most affluent and heavily insured parts of the country are under water after several rivers burst their banks Wednesday, insurers are reporting relatively few emergency calls from policyholders.

But that hasn't stopped insurers' share prices from falling like the rain. A nervous stock market began marking down share prices heavily Wednesday

because traders feared insurers would be paying out hefty flood claims. The drop in stock values showed further falls Thursday.

Currently, large tracts of farmland also are submerged following one of the wettest weeks on record. In some parts of southeastern England, rainfall so far this month is 400 percent above average.

Very heavy rain also has fallen across much of Northern Europe and serious flooding has hit France as well.

Further downpours forecast for Britain Wednesday night were not as severe as expected and by Thursday morning the floodwaters were starting to recede in many areas. More rain is expected, however.