April Catastrophes Included Earthquakes in China, Iran; Hail, Floods in U.S.: Aon

May 8, 2013

An earthquake in China and two in Iran dominated global catastrophes in April.

Additional earthquakes were recorded in Japan, Afghanistan and Hungary during the month.

Parts of the U.S. suffered severe hail and flooding damage during April, although there were fewer tornadoes than expected.

Impact Forecasting, the catastrophe model center at Aon Benfield, released its monthly Global Catastrophe Recap report, which reviews the natural disaster perils that occurred worldwide during April.

A magnitude-6.6 earthquake struck China’s Sichuan Province, killing at least 196 people and injuring 13,484 others. Local government officials estimated economic losses at CNY 169 billion (USD $27 billion), according to the report. If verified, potential insured losses would be around CNY 1.5 billion (USD $250 million), given a local insurance penetration of approximately one percent.

Two strong earthquakes took place in Iran in April, including a magnitude-6.3 earthquake that struck southern Iran, killing at least 41 people and injuring 1,100 others across 92 villages. Iranian provincial officials recorded economic damages of IRR7.37 trillion (USD $600 million). A stronger magnitude-7.8 tremor hit near the Iran/Pakistan border, with all 36 casualties occurring in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province.

Earthquakes were also recorded in April in Japan, Afghanistan and Hungary.

The earthquake events in China and Iran highlight the importance of catastrophe modeling, said Steve Jakubowski, president of Impact Forecasting, which has earthquake models for countries around the world that quantify and qualify insurers’ and reinsurers’ potential regional exposures.

“While it is virtually impossible to predict where and when the next major earthquake will occur, we are continually learning more about the peril to strengthen our capabilities,” Jakubowski said.

During April, the U.S. experienced fewer tornadoes than usual but severe hail storm and flooding activity.

Preliminary data from the United States’ Storm Prediction Center indicated that only 83 tornadoes touched down in April, which, if confirmed, would represent a 60 percent decrease from the 206 tornadoes in April 2012 and an 89 percent decrease from the record 758 tornadoes in April 2011.

Most of the U.S. severe weather damage occurred from hail and damaging wind events in the Plains, Midwest and Southeast, with at least five events combining to cause a minimum of $700 million in economic losses.

Severe flooding affected the U.S. Midwest, where rivers crested well beyond flood stage in the states of Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, and Missouri following prolonged rainfall. Initial data from damage assessments suggest total economic losses in the hundreds of millions.

Rounds of severe thunderstorms also affected China, where multiple events swept across central, southern and eastern sections of the country. The Ministry of Civil Affairs reported that tornado touchdowns, severe winds and hail killed 14 people and damaged more than 100,000 homes. Total economic losses were listed at CNY 2.86 billion (USD $463 million).

Record rainfall impacted areas of Argentina’s city and province of Buenos Aires, prompting severe flash flooding that killed at least 70 people. The La Plata region was hardest hit, with 400 millimeters (15.74 inches) of rain in two hours, leading to extensive flooding across many parts of the city. Overall economic losses were cited at ARS 6.7 billion (USD $1.3 billion), of which direct damages contributed ARS2.6 billion (USD $503 million).

Flooding was also prevalent across multiple African countries, with Kenya sustaining some of the worst effects. Seasonal rains, which initially began in March, led to flooding and landslides that killed at least 66 people. Total economic losses were estimated at KES 3.0 billion (USD $36 million).

Meanwhile, torrential rains prompted flash flooding across northern New Zealand. The Insurance Council of New Zealand reported that a combined 1,500 home and contents claims had been filed in the Nelson and Bay of Plenty regions, and that insured losses would exceed NZD $16.8 million (USD $14.2 million).

Flooding and landslide events also occurred in Ecuador, China, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Ghana, Ethiopia and Angola.

Source: Impact Forecasting, Aon Benfield

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