Aon Benfield 2011 Catastrophe Study: $107 Bn Insured Losses; $435 Bn Economic

By Charles E. Boyle | January 10, 2012

Aon Benfield, the global reinsurance intermediary and capital advisor of Aon Corp, has issued its  “Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report,” which aggregates and analyses the natural disaster perils that occurred worldwide during 2011, which concludes that the impact of 253 separate events generated a record total economic loss of $435 billion.

The report describes 2011 as “one of the most active on record for natural catastrophes.” It produced $107 billion in total insured loss from natural catastrophes, the second highest on record. Only 2005 topped it with insured losses of $120 billion – $90 billion of which resulted from the major hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Losses in 2011 were more than 280 percent higher than insured losses recorded in 2010.

The report also notes that the 10 largest 2011 natural catastrophe insured losses represented 81 percent ($86 billion) of the total insured loss figure and comprised four severe weather events, three earthquake events, two flood events, and one tropical cyclone event.

Stephen Mildenhall, CEO of Aon Benfield Analytics, explained: “The most fatal, destructive and costly natural disasters of 2011 impacted countries in North and South America, Asia, Europe, Australasia and Oceania. Total insured losses were over two and a half times the losses from 2010 – which in turn were almost double the losses from 2009.

“A frequency of severity during the year tested primary insurance company retentions and their reinsurance protections. The insurance industry demonstrated its value and importance to the global economy, helping individuals, communities and businesses rebuild, and reinsurance clearly demonstrated its value to insurers. The tragic events of the year also highlighted opportunities for insurers and reinsurers to improve and expand upon how their products protect insureds through new and enhanced coverages and capacity.”

The most costly disaster from a human, insurance and reinsurance, and economic perspective, was the earthquake and the resultant tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, killing nearly 16,000 people and causing an estimated $35 billion insured loss and a $210 billion economic loss.

The two separate large earthquakes that struck New Zealand in the greater Christchurch region during 2011 produced a combined insured loss of $15 billion. The government noted that the country has endured a $30 billion economic loss from the two earthquakes in 2011 and a powerful tremor in September 2010.

The report also notes that “record insured losses were also incurred in the United States, following a series of severe weather outbreaks that resulted in an escalated number of deadly tornadoes, damaging winds and destructive hail. On August 27, Hurricane Irene became the first hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since 2008. Ten additional tropical cyclone landfalls occurred worldwide during 2011.”

Steve Bowen, senior scientist and meteorologist at Aon’s catastrophe model unit, Impact Forecasting, stated: “While Asia and Oceania sustained the most significant natural disaster events of 2011, the United States also endured a highly active year. Extreme severe weather outbreaks highlighted the year’s activity, which was also marked by Hurricane Irene’s landfall, flooding in the Mississippi and Missouri River Basins and a prolonged drought in the Southwest. In total, a record 17 separate billion-dollar events were recorded in the U.S. in 2011. This surpasses the previous record of 9 set in 2008.”

Elsewhere, major floods were witnessed in vast areas of Southeast Asia, and also in parts of Australia, North America and South America. The most notable flood event occurred in Thailand, where prolonged flooding has generated an estimated $45 billion economic loss. The country’s official Office of Insurance Commission projected an insured loss of nearly $11 billion.

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