Wildfire losses hit record level on October fires in California & Portugal


Wildfires in California and Portugal have made October the most costly month for that peril for the insurance and reinsurance industry, with around $8.2 billion in losses for the sector, according to Aon Benfield’s Impact Forecasting unit.

California wildfire image from Getty, via BBC

California wildfire image from Getty, via BBC

As we wrote last week, reinsurance broker Aon Benfield believes that the California wildfires could end up costing the industry as much as $8 billion, the highest figure for a U.S. wildfire insured loss, while some others expect the toll will rise further to as much as $10 billion once the final claims are tallied.

Meanwhile the wildfire outbreaks in Portugal are estimated to have caused around another EUR 200 million of losses for insurance and reinsurance interests, making the outbreak the costliest for the local industry ever.

Steve Bowen, Impact Forecasting director and meteorologist, commented on the wildfire outbreaks, “In a year already marked by elevated catastrophe losses, October continued in the same vein. Historic wildfire events in Portugal and California are poised to make October the costliest month for the insurance industry ever recorded for the peril. The multi-billion dollar payout in California alone highlights the enormity of the event footprint as assessments and restoration efforts continue across the state.”

The information is included in Impact Forecasting’s latest monthly catastrophe recap report, where the catastrophe risk analysis unit of Aon Benfield details the events of the past month.

In the report Impact Forecasting also details a brisk start to the European windstorm season.

The report details “three notable storms” hitting Europe in October, as the extratropical or winter storm season kicked off in earnest.

These were, windstorm Xavier that struck Northern Germany and Western Poland, causing moderate damage and at least seven fatalities. Xavier has already been estimated to have cost German insurers EUR 200 million.

The extratropical remnants of hurricane Ophelia was next, striking Ireland in mid-October. An early report suggested that economic losses from Ophelia could have been well over a billion dollars.

Finally, windstorm Herwart hit Germany and Central Europe, killing at least 10 people and resulting in an estimated insured loss of at least EUR 300 million.

Other natural catastrophe events to have occurred during October include:

  • Super Typhoon Lan caused extensive damage in Philippines and Japan with powerful winds and torrential rainfall. Total economic losses in Japan were likely to exceed USD1.0 billion.
  • Hurricane Nate impacted Central America in early October, killing at least 46 people and producing extensive material losses. The storm later caused minor damage in U.S. Gulf and Mid-Atlantic states.
  • Continuous rainfall prompted widespread flooding in China, Thailand and Vietnam, where at least 98 fatalities were reported. At least 121,000 homes were affected by flooding in Thailand alone.
  • Flooding in southern Norway resulted in one of the costliest recent events for the local industry. Additional flooding ensued in Queensland, Australia, after powerful thunderstorms impacted the region.
  • Multiple severe weather outbreaks affected the U.S., primarily in central and eastern sections of the country. Total economic damages topped USD350 million. Also, the remnants of Tropical Storm Philippe combined with a separate system to bring widespread damage in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Elsewhere, powerful thunderstorms caused wind and flood damage in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces in South Africa. Local insurers cited payouts nearing USD105 million.

So October was another costly month for insurance and reinsurance interests. The full Impact Forecasting October 2017 Global Catastrophe Recap report can be downloaded here.

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