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Aon Benfield Report: Chilean Earthquake, Windstorm Xynthia and U.S. Winter Storms to Cost Reinsurers Billions

Source: Aon

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Posted on 05 Mar 2010

Aon Benfield, the world's premier reinsurance intermediary and capital advisor, today releases the latest edition of its Monthly Cat Recap report, which provides an analysis of worldwide catastrophic events in February.

Published by the company’s Impact Forecasting team, who evaluate global perils for the re/insurance industry, the report highlights that the month witnessed one of the most extreme natural perils by magnitude in history.

The magnitude-8.8 earthquake which occurred in central Chile on February 27 was the seventh strongest on record, killing at least 795 people. The disaster follows the Haiti earthquake on January 12, which to date has claimed more than 200,000 lives.

The Chilean earthquake affected more than 1.5 million homes, buildings and other structures. Insurance penetration in Chile is far greater than in Haiti, and insured losses are expected to be low single digit billions of dollars (USD), while economic losses are forecast to reach tens of billions of dollars (USD).

Steve Jakubowski, President of Impact Forecasting, said: “As with Haiti, the relief effort for the Chilean earthquake has been swift and ongoing. This event was unprecedented in its magnitude – it is the largest earthquake Chile has ever witnessed, and is one of the most destructive on record. It lasted for nearly 90 seconds, and more than 100 aftershocks were experienced in the following days. Many of these aftershocks had a magnitude that exceeded even the Haiti earthquake.”

Elsewhere in South America, river flooding in February killed at least 15 people in four Bolivian provinces, with more than 35,000 homes being damaged and around 100,000 people displaced. Meanwhile, Uruguay, Argentina, and Peru also suffered severe flooding, the latter witnessing the damaged or destruction of more than 20,000 homes.

The Cat Recap report highlights that in Europe, Windstorm Xynthia swept across Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium and Germany late in the month, causing inland and coastal damage which left two million homes without electricity. Insured losses are expected to be in excess of USD1.8billion (EUR1.3billion).

Heavy rains were responsible for extensive flood damage in Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and Italy between February 13 to 17. In Greece, 20,000 hectares of land were flooded and damage to homes and infrastructure was estimated at around USD10million (EUR7million). Torrential rain was also witnessed in Madeira and Spain, leading to loss of life and extensive property/infrastructure damage – in Madeira, reconstruction costs are estimated at more than USD1.35billion (EUR1billion), with insured losses set to be significantly lower.

In the US, severe winter storms swept the country, the first between February 5 and 7, which affected infrastructure in several regions, including Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and parts of southern New Jersey, and resulted in widespread electricity blackouts and disruption to schools, airports, roads and railways. More than 35,000 insurance claims had been filed as at the end of February, totaling USD125million.

In Africa, heavy rains resulted in several deaths and were also the cause of major disruption during the month. At least nine people were killed when rain caused a cliff to collapse on Lake Tanganyika in Zambia, and at least four people died when flash floods hit KwaZulu-Natal Province on February 16.

In Asia, avalanches claimed many lives during February. Eight people died and 49 were injured following heavy snowfall in the Iranian resorts of Semshak and Dizin, and, in Kashmir, 21 deaths and 83 injuries were reported in similar conditions.

Meanwhile, nearly two dozen massive avalanches occurred on February 9 in northern Afghanistan, killing 184 people and damaging around 2,600 vehicles. Further avalanches in Pakistan and China claimed many lives and caused severe disruption to local infrastructure. China was also subject to a magnitude-5.0 earthquake in Yunnan Province on February 25, which injured at least 29 people and damaged more than 3,000 homes and other structures.

In Australia, a series of storms hit Queensland and New South Wales during the month. A severe storm in Sydney between February 12 to 15 resulted in an insured loss of less than USD10million (AUD11.1million) following 1,200 insurance claims. And Cyclone Oli hit French Polynesia on February 4 and 5 killing one person, damaging more than 1,000 homes, and resulting in a USD70million (XPF6billion) economic loss.


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