ABI Study Warns of Increased Flood Risk in Eastern U.K.

November 10, 2006

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has issued a new report that warns of the dangers of increased flooding in Eastern England. Among other findings, the report, which was compiled using data supplied by Calif.-based Risk Management Solutions, concludes:
— A 40cm [15.7 inches] rise in sea levels will put an extra 130,000 properties at risk of flooding. In total 400,000 properties will be at risk, up nearly 50 percent on the current number. In Hull alone 19,000 properties could suffer serious flooding; 24,000 properties in Southend.
— Without improvements to existing flood defenses, the cost of a major coastal flood could soar by 400 percent and cost as much as £16 billion [$30 billion].
— Essential services and lives will be at risk. 15 percent of fire and ambulance stations and 12 percent of hospitals and schools are in flood-risk areas.
— The elderly will be particularly affected as the number living on, or moving to, the coast is well above the national average.

The report recommends:
— Investing in improved coastal defenses to reduce the number of properties at risk. An extra £8 billion [$15.2 billion] needs to be spent over the next 25-30 years to improve coastal defenses along the East Coast.
— A long-term flood management strategy, which looks at funding needs 25-30 years ahead, and regional planning taking into account the likely impact of climate change in 50 and 100 years time.

Stephen Haddrill, the ABI’s Director General, commented: “Climate change is happening now, and we need to act now to manage it. Flooding is expensive, disruptive and distressing. This report shows that Britain needs a sustained and prolonged investment in coastal flood defenses. This investment needs to start now.”

In a separate bulletin RMS noted that the “study used the RMS U.K. storm surge catastrophe model to examine the current and future impacts of coastal flooding along the east coast of England. It employed “three storm surge scenarios” from the many “hundreds of events in the RMS stochastic model representing surges with a 200-250 year return period for different sections of the coastline.”

One of those models closely matched “the surge that caused the great flood of January 31/February 1, 1953 when more than 2,000 people were drowned in eastern England and the Netherlands,” said RMS. “More than 100 simulations were run for each surge, to sample the full range of surge outcomes, from storms arriving at low tide with well-performing flood defenses, to storms arriving at high tide with poorly-performing flood defenses.”

RMS also said its simulations were run using increases in the “mean sea levels by 0.1, 0.2, and 0.4 meters [app. 4, 7.8 and 15.7 inches respectively] at all reference locations in order to assess the effects of the anticipated rise in sea levels. The exposures and vulnerabilities employed in the simulations were those of the standard RMS model.”

Dr. Robert Muir-Wood, Chief Research Officer at RMS, commented: “The recent publication of the Stern report on the Economics of Climate Change [See IJ Website Oct. 31] has shown how the costs of future risk need to inform today’s economic decisions. Catastrophe models are the appropriate tools for exploring the costs of some of the key risks of Climate Change, in particular in the coastal zone, so as to identify and optimize alternative paths of adaptation.”

The full report can be accessed at: www.abi.org.uk/climatechange.

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