Canadian Underwriter

What could go wrong?

November 22, 2017   by Greg Dalgetty

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When I went to live in Mexico for a while back in 2005, some people suggested I register with the Canadian consulate. Registering with a consulate was something that had never occurred to me before, so naturally, I ignored the advice. What’s the worst that could happen?

I was living in Cancun, but it’s not the Cancun you’re thinking of. It was the actual city of Cancun, which is inland from la zona hotelera — the area with all the hotels and white-sand beaches. (Do the beaches actually have white sand? I don’t know because I didn’t spend any time there. Beaches aren’t my thing.)

I was living with a Mexican family so I could work on my Spanish. But I got more than just Spanish during my stay — I also got Hurricane Wilma, which to this day remains one of the most powerful storms to hit the North Atlantic. The Category 5 behemoth laid waste to the city for days. We lost power before it even touched ground, and the phones went too. There was no way for me to contact the consulate. Maybe I should have registered after all…

Not having any recourse, I stuck it out through much of the aftermath, which consisted primarily of rampant looting. Inside, the house was backed up with raw sewage; outside, people were ransacking anything that could be ransacked. Vicente Fox, then the president of Mexico, dispatched the army to the coast to protect the tourists. But in the city, it was bedlam.

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d ever get out of there, but I eventually escaped. (That’s a great story, but better suited to a different magazine.) I don’t think I’ll ever see devastation on a larger scale than what I witnessed firsthand with Wilma, where I literally saw the eye of the storm pass over me. But who knows — maybe I will someday.

This year, we’ve seen hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria wreak havoc south of the border. American International Group is anticipating about US$3 billion in pre-tax losses in the third quarter, caused mainly by the storms, with the earthquakes in Mexico accounting for about US$150 million in losses.

Here in Canada, it’s been a costly year as well, with parts of B.C. ravaged by wildfires and areas in Ontario and Quebec battered by floods. And all signs seem to point to weather-related events getting worse in the years to come.

This issue, we take a closer look at the extreme weather events that have been affecting parts of Canada. How has the insurance industry responded to the recent flooding and wildfires? And when distraught homeowners take to Facbook and Twitter to air grievances about their insurers following a disaster, how can the industry respond?

Read on to find out.

Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in the November 2017 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.