General Insurance Article - Wildfires expected to cause record insurance loss


Impact Forecasting, Aon Benfield’s catastrophe model development team, launches the latest edition of its monthly Global Catastrophe Recap report, which evaluates the impact of the natural disaster events that occurred worldwide during October 2017.

 The report reveals that a major wildfire outbreak in the U.S. state of California killed at least 43 people and injured 185 others. Nearly two-dozen fires were ignited as the blazes – which included the Central LNU Complex Fire around the town of Santa Rosa – aggregated together to become the most damaging event on record in the state. 

 Data from Californian fire protection organization, CalFire, indicated that nearly 9,300 structures were damaged, of which more than 8,560 were destroyed. The worst damage was noted in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake Solano, Butte, and Yuba counties. The California Department of Insurance cited that at least 19,000 residential, commercial, and auto claims had been filed, with payouts exceeding USD3.32 billion.

 This total was expected to rise as high as USD8.0 billion as additional claims were processed, representing, on an aggregated basis, the costliest insured wildfire event ever recorded.

 Meanwhile, another significant wildfire outbreak impacted central and northern Portugal, killing at least 45 people. The fires swept through several districts, notably Coimbra, Viseu and Castelo Branco, causing significant property and commercial damage. The Portuguese Association of Insurers stated that total insured losses were likely to reach EUR200 million (USD232 million), representing the costliest event on record for the local industry.

 Additional fires caused at least four fatalities in northwestern Spain.

 Steve Bowen, Impact Forecasting director and meteorologist, said: “In a year already marked by elevated catastrophe losses, October continued in the same vein. Historic wildfire events in Portugal and California are poised to make October the costliest month for the insurance industry ever recorded for the peril. The multi-billion dollar payout in California alone highlights the enormity of the event footprint as assessments and restoration efforts continue across the state.”

 Meanwhile, an active start to the 2017 European Windstorm season was marked by three notable storms; Windstorm Xavier impacted Northern Germany and Western Poland, prompting moderate damage and causing at least seven fatalities. The extratropical remnants of Ophelia, the easternmost Atlantic major hurricane (Category 3+) on record, hit the British Isles in mid-October. Finally, Windstorm Herwart swept through Central Europe, killing at least 10 people and resulting in hundreds of millions (USD) in claims payouts.

 Other natural catastrophe events to have occurred during October include:
 • Super Typhoon Lan caused extensive damage in Philippines and Japan with powerful winds and torrential rainfall. Total economic losses in Japan were likely to exceed USD1.0 billion.
 • Hurricane Nate impacted Central America in early October, killing at least 46 people and producing extensive material losses. The storm later caused minor damage in U.S. Gulf and Mid-Atlantic states.
 • Continuous rainfall prompted widespread flooding in China, Thailand and Vietnam, where at least 98 fatalities were reported. At least 121,000 homes were affected by flooding in Thailand alone.
 • Flooding in southern Norway resulted in one of the costliest recent events for the local industry. Additional flooding ensued in Queensland, Australia, after powerful thunderstorms impacted the region.
 • Multiple severe weather outbreaks affected the U.S., primarily in central and eastern sections of the country. Total economic damages topped USD350 million. Also, the remnants of Tropical Storm Philippe combined with a separate system to bring widespread damage in the U.S. and Canada.
 • Elsewhere, powerful thunderstorms caused wind and flood damage in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces in South Africa. Local insurers cited payouts nearing USD105 million.

 To view the full Impact Forecasting October 2017 Global Catastrophe Recap report, please follow the link:

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