Canadian Underwriter

Hurricane Fabian could take US$350 million toll on insurers

September 8, 2003   by Canadian Underwriter

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Hurricane Fabian, which bashed the island of Bermuda on Friday with sustained winds of 120 mph, could cost insurers US$300-$350 million, according to risk modeling firm AIR Worldwide Inc.
AIR Worldwide senior vice president, Pat Donahue, says the figure is based on insurable properties on the island, and was modeled using storm tracking and intensity markers provided by the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
The damage is six to seven times worse than that caused by Hurricane Emily in 1987, which was a “category 1” storm on the Safir-Simpson scale of intensity. Fabian ranks as the worst storm to hit the island in a half-century.
Hurricane Fabian measured a significantly higher “category 3”, with wind gusts as high as 145 mph. Storm surge of 20-24 feet was also reported, adds Atul Khanduri, manager of wind engineering for AIR. The storm is “testing the building code limits of Bermuda”, he says, despite Bermuda having particularly strong building codes, requiring buildings to withstand 110 mph winds. Most buildings are made of limestone with walls 8-10 inches thick and slate tile roofs, as opposed to most buildings in Canada and the U.S. which have wood frames and shingle roofs. Nonetheless, reports were made of roofs flying off during the hurricane, Khanduri notes.
Bermuda is also an area where many people carry insurance on their property, and property values are high compared with other Caribbean islands, Donahue adds.
Four people were reported missing during the hurricane, two police officers and two civilians, when their vehicles were swept off a causeway.
Canadian adjusters with Crawford Adjusters Canada are preparing to head down to Bermuda to join a team of international catastrophe specialists assessing Fabian’s damage, confirms Canadian CEO Glenn Gibson. “A group of these individuals [adjusters, marine surveyors and administrative support staff] with property and marine claims experience have been placed on standby to travel to Bermuda on short notice,” he says. “We anticipate having some Canadian staff on the island by the end of the week.”
While Fabian died away on Monday, Hurricane Isabel began to gather force, becoming a category 3 storm with 115 mph sustained winds. It is several hundred miles off the coast off the Leeward Islands and it is unknown at this point where, if at all, Isabel will hit land.
Tropical depression Henri, which at on point was feared to approach the Florida coast as a tropical storm, is now moving away from the east coast of the U.S. and only gathered sustained winds of 35 mph.

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