£150 Million Preliminary Estimate of Insured Losses in French Floods

September 12, 2002

The cost to France’s insurance industry from the severe flooding in three southeastern departments (See Insurance Journal Website Sept.10) will be around £150 million ($147 million) according to preliminary estimates.

According to a report in Les Echos, the French Financial newspaper, Jean-Marc Lamère, délégué général de la Fédération française des sociétés d’assurance (FFSA), indicated that the losses would fall somewhere between the $60 million the industry paid for flood damage in the Somme region in 1999 and the $284 million it paid out for the devastation in the Aude.

Scenes on French television, however, seem to indicate that Lamère’s estimate may be too low. The latest government estimates list 21 people dead and 8 still missing following the violent downpour that drenched the region Sunday night and Monday morning.

As the swollen rivers recede towns and cities are emerging utterly devastated from the flash floods that engulfed them. 55,000 homes and business are still without electricity and 85,000 have no telephone service. While major road and rail service has been largely restored, secondary roads remain largely impassable due not only to flood waters, but also to piles of debris which haven still to be cleared away.

Agricultural losses, which are largely covered by the government, are estimated to reach at least $1.5 billion. Perhaps the most serious loss, at least from the point of view of those who enjoy a glass of wine, is the devastation wrought by the storms on a region that produces a large proportion of France’s popular and relatively cheap Côtes du Rhône wine. The storms devastated many vineyards just before the fall grape harvest was scheduled to begin.

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