Four severe weather outbreaks in the U.S. throughout March led to extensive damage in the central and eastern parts of the country, costing the insurance industry in excess of US$2.0 billion, according to a report published by Impact Forecasting, Aon Benfield’s catastrophe model development team.
The worst outbreak from March 6-10 resulted in major damage from tornadoes, large hail and straight-line winds in the Plains, Midwest and Southeast, said Impact Forecasting’s “Global Catastrophe Recap – March 2017” report. Total economic losses for this event alone were estimated at US$1.7 billion, while public and private insurance claims were listed at US$1.2 billion.
Through the first quarter of 2017, the U.S. has seen above-average numbers of storm reports, said the report.
Meanwhile, Cyclone Debbie made landfall in Australia, leading to flooding that killed 10 people in southeastern Queensland and northern New South Wales, said Impact Forecasting. The Insurance Council of Australia declared an insurance catastrophe following extensive wind and flood damage, and preliminary data indicated that 35,370 claims had been initially filed, with insurance payouts exceeding US$310 million. These totals were expected to rise, and the overall economic cost is forecast to be even higher.
“There was no shortage of significant natural disasters in March, and while re/insurers’ focus was largely on the events in the United States and Australia, there were other major occurrences in emerging areas for the industry,” said Steve Bowen, Impact Forecasting director and meteorologist.
For instance, he added, the phenomenon known as a “coastal El Niño” was blamed on catastrophic flooding in both Peru and Colombia, “highlighting that there remain areas around the world where insurance can play a critical role in helping people in the aftermath of a disaster.”
Impact Forecasting went on to list other natural hazard events that occurred worldwide during March:
- Separate severe weather outbreaks killed 19 people in Ghana, damaged thousands of homes in Thailand, and caused extensive damage to property and agriculture in China’s Yunnan province.
- Cyclone Enawo made landfall in Madagascar and claimed nearly 100 lives. As many as 85,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and 434,000 people were directly affected.
- Windstorm Zeus came ashore in France, killing two people and leading to widespread wind damage. Total economic and insured losses were expected to well exceed US$100 million.
- Catastrophic flooding – associated with what scientists are calling a “coastal El Niño” – led to continued damage in Peru and Colombia. More than 100 people were killed by flooding and landslides in Peru and over 245,000 homes and structures were damaged or destroyed. Economic losses were listed at upward of US$3.1 billion. In Colombia, rains led to a massive debris flow in the town of Mocoa that left at least 301 people dead and hundreds more injured. As many as 314 people were listed as missing.
- Other major floods were recorded in New Zealand, Indonesia, Angola and Zimbabwe.
- Severe drought conditions worsened in Africa’s Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, as the United Nations appealed for US$1.9 billion in aid.
- Sub-freezing temperatures led to an expected US$1.0 billion cost to agriculture in the U.S. states of South Carolina and Georgia. Winter storm damage was also noted in Canada’s Newfoundland.
- Wildfires claimed seven lives in the U.S., following major fires in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Colorado.
- A magnitude-5.0 earthquake in China’s Yunnan province damaged nearly 45,000 structures.
Source: Impact Forecasting/Aon Benfield