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February major disasters roundup

Aon Benfield has released the latest edition of its Monthly Cat Recap report, which reviews the natural disasters that occurred worldwide during February.

Published by Impact Forecasting, the firm's catastrophe model development center of excellence, the report reveals that natural hazard activity during the month was dominated by the magnitude-6.3 earthquake that struck New Zealand's South Island on February 22, causing widespread damage, fatalities and injuries.

The devastation has so far claimed 161 lives and injured more than 2,000 people, with many still missing. Economic impacts have been estimated at NZD10-15 billion (USD7.5-11.3 billion) by the New Zealand government. Determining insured losses from this event will be extremely difficult and complex given the intermingled nature of the damage stemming from the Darfield earthquake of September 2010 and this latest earthquake.

Steve Jakubowski, President of Impact Forecasting, said: “The people of New Zealand were still coming to terms with the widespread damage caused by last year's Darfield earthquake, and now with this second tremor, which has proved even more devastating, both in terms of extensive structural damage and its impact on human lives, due to its shallower depth and epicenter located much closer to Christchurch. The New Zealand Earthquake Commission has already received more than 31,500 insurance claims, and this figure is expected to rise significantly as the situation on the ground becomes clearer.”

Meanwhile, on February 3 Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi made landfall near Mission Beach in Queensland, Australia, causing economic damages of more than AUD800 million (USD801 million) according to the government. The Insurance Council of Australia reported that more than 30,600 insurance claims had been filed, with AUD517.5 million (USD526 million) already paid to policyholders.

Elsewhere, a major winter storm hit the US from Colorado to Maine early in February, killing at least 36 people. Chicago sustained the third-biggest snowfall in its recorded history, and 18,000 flights were cancelled across the country due to the inclement weather. Total economic losses from the winter storm were estimated at more than USD700 million, while insurers received more than 80,000 claims amid a forecast insurance loss of USD400 million.

In Canada, multiple winter storms that originated in the US tracked northeastward during the month, bringing heavy snows and gusty winds in parts of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec during the month, and causing structural damage and business interruption losses.

And severe winter weather led to widespread snow damage along coastal sections of eastern South Korea, resulting in an economic impact of at least KRW77.7 billion (USD69.9 million).

Flooding in the Philippines and Sri Lanka led to dozens of fatalities and the destruction of thousands of homes. Projected economic losses from the Sri Lanka floods were cited at LKR50 billion (USD450 million).

Meanwhile, in Africa, Tropical Cyclone Bingiza made separate landfalls in Madagascar during February, killing 15 people and destroying more than 20,000 structures. In Mozambique, at least 9,600 homes sustained flood damage in the Zambezi Valley from heavy rains triggered by Bingiza.
In Europe, a prolonged cold snap in February led to 29 hypothermia deaths across Poland.

More details (PDF).

•Date: 4th March 2011 • Region: World •Type: Article •Topic: DR general

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