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Natural catastrophe events cost more than USD353 billion in 2017

Impact Forecasting, Aon Benfield's catastrophe model development team, has published its ‘Weather, Climate & Catastrophe Insight: 2017 Annual Report’, which evaluates the impact of the natural disaster events that occurred around the world during 2017. 

The report reveals that there were 330 natural catastrophe events in 2017 that generated economic losses of USD353 billion – of which 97 percent (USD344 billion) was due to weather-related events, including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in the US and Caribbean, plus Typhoon Hato in China and Cyclone Debbie in Australia. For historical context, 2017's natural catastrophe losses were 93 percent higher versus the 2000-2016 average.

Insured losses to the private sector and government-sponsored programs were among the costliest ever incurred, reaching USD134 billion in 2017 – just behind the record USD137 billion in 2011. This is 139 percent higher than last year's USD56 billion, primarily due to high insurance penetration in the US that suffered a very active Atlantic hurricane season, severe weather events (convective storms) and wildfires.

Additional key findings include:

  • 36 percent (USD80 billion) of economic damage from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria was insured;
  • 31 billion-dollar events occurred globally, with 16 alone in the US;
  • Wildfires caused USD14 billion of insurance losses in 2017 – the highest on record for the peril;
  • 10,000 human fatalities were caused by natural disasters, with the deadliest event being a massive landslide event in Sierra Leone when more than 1,100 people lost their lives;
  • 2017 was the third warmest year on record since 1880 for combined land and ocean temperatures.

Steve Bowen, Impact Forecasting director and meteorologist, said: "The high cost of disasters in 2017 served as a reminder that we continue to face increasing levels of risk as more people and exposures are located in areas that are particularly vulnerable to major, naturally occurring events. As weather scenarios grow more volatile in their size and potential impact, it becomes more imperative than ever to identify ways to increase awareness, improve communication, and lower the insurance protection gap. We know natural disasters are going to occur. The question is how prepared are we going to be when the next one strikes."

Other significant events during the year included:

  • An October wildfire outbreak, the most destructive ever recorded in the US state of California, caused nearly USD13 billion in economic damage;
  • Substantial summer flooding causing more than USD12 billion in damage across China;
  • Southern Europe endured an extended drought during the summer and autumn months that caused USD6.6 billion in damage across parts of Spain, Italy and Portugal;
  • Elsewhere in Europe, the costliest thunderstorm event of the year affected central sections of the continent, particularly Poland, and left a damage bill of nearly USD800 million;
  • In Mexico, two powerful earthquakes in September led to nearly USD6.0 billion in combined economic losses, including major damage across Mexico City on the 32ndanniversary of its historic 1985 tremor.

Read the full Weather, Climate & Catastrophe Insight: 2017 Annual Report



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