Canadian Underwriter

North American natural catastrophes in the first half of 2015 cost insurers US$8 billion: Munich Re

July 14, 2015   by Canadian Underwriter

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Natural catastrophes in the first half of the year in North America caused overall losses of approximately US$12 billion, of which insurers bore the brunt – US$8 billion, Munich Reinsurance America, Inc. said on Tuesday.

Halifax saw more than 80 centimetres of snow over several days in March. Photo: Halifax Regional Municipality

“The costliest global natural catastrophe for the insurance industry in the first half of the year was a series of exceptionally cold and snowy winter storms that struck the northeastern U.S. and Canada at the end of February, often leading to widespread power outages,” said Tony Kuczinski, president and CEO of Munich Re, in a press release. “Boston alone received almost ten feet of snow over the winter months – an absolute record.”

Kuczinski noted that the insured loss from the February storms was US$1.8 billion, with total losses of US$2.4 billion.

There were direct overall losses of US$4.3 billion in the United States from the harsh winter of 2014/15, of which US$3.2 billion was insured, Munich Re reported, noting that the figure does not include indirect losses due to delayed flights, power failures and business interruptions. The shorter period from January to the end of the winter accounted for US$3.8 billion in overall losses and US$2.9 billion in insured losses. [click image below to enlarge]

The insured losses from winter storms that struck the northeastern United States and Canada in February was US$1.8 billion

Between April and June, there was a series of severe weather events in the Southern U.S., which “were fairly unusual for the region in terms of their severity,” the press release said. Each resulted in losses of over US$1 billion, of which approximately US$0.75 billion was insured. In the first six months, losses in the U.S. from severe weather events like these, in some cases accompanied by tornadoes or hail, caused losses of US$6.5 billion (US$4.8 billion insured). [click image below to enlarge]

Overall losses from the earthquake in Nepal in April were US$4.5 billion, of which only US$140 million was insured

Other global natural catastrophe highlights for the first half of 2015 include:

• The overall losses and insured losses were below long-term average values. Total losses in the first half of 2015 incurred were US$35 billion, whereas the average value for the last 30 years is approximately US$64 billion when adjusted for inflation. Insured losses for this year so far have been US$12 billion, compared with a long-term average of US$ 15 billion;

• On April 25, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake caused catastrophic devastation throughout Nepal. A total of 8,850 people were killed and the earthquake was the natural catastrophe with the largest number of fatalities in the first half of the year, and also the most severe event in terms of overall losses. These totalled US$4.5 billion, of which only US$140 million was insured. Total losses accounted for almost a quarter of Nepal’s annual gross domestic product. Another 230 people lost their lives in a 7.3 magnitude earthquake two and a half weeks later;

• A total of over 16,000 people died in severe weather events and earthquakes, which was much greater than in the previous year (2,800), but far lower than the average for the past 30 years (27,000);

• The costliest natural catastrophe in Europe was storm Niklas, which swept across large areas of central Europe in the closing days of March, with wind speeds peaking at approximately 200 km/h. A large number of buildings and vehicles were damaged. The overall loss was US$1.4 billion (about US$1 billion insured); and

• At the close of the first half of the year, there was an exceptionally strong heatwave in India and Pakistan that caused the deaths of 3,600 people.

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