Despite Uptick in Frequency, January Sees No Major Natural Disaster

February 7, 2012

January was a good month in terms of global catastrophes. Yet while there was no single major loss event throughout the month, a series of relatively small aggregated losses impacted insurers and economies worldwide, a new report revealed.

In the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, Windstorm Ulli killed at least two people early in the month and caused widespread damage, according to Aon Benfield’s Global Catastrophe Recap report, which analyses the natural disaster perils that occurred worldwide during January.

The report — published by the firm’s catastrophe modeling center Impact Forecasting — revealed thousands of insurance claims were filed in the affected regions, with total insured losses estimated at approximately GBP200 million (USD306 million).

Elsewhere in Europe, prolonged low temperatures killed at least 306 people in the east of the continent, while in Japan, heavy snowfall from a series of winter storms killed at least 56 people and injured 750 others, with the hardest-hit areas comprising Akita, Niigata, Nagano and Aomori.

The United States endured widespread multiple winter storms during January, with heavy snow and freezing rain in parts of Oregon and Washington, that caused total damages estimated to be well above USD50 million.

“Following an extremely active 2011, this year has already seen an elevated number of natural disaster events,” said Steve Jakubowski, president of Impact Forecasting. “However, contrary to last year, 2012 has thus far lacked what we would term a significant event.”

Severe winter weather impacted many countries during January, and Impact Forecasting expects this trend to continue into February across the Northern Hemisphere. Climatology and the current La Nina phase suggest that heavy rainfall and tropical cyclones are a threat for the Southern Hemisphere, especially after Cyclone Yasi’s landfall and flooding across parts of Australia last year during the months of January and February.

Meanwhile, a rare January tornado outbreak caused widespread damage to portions of Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi, with total economic losses anticipated to exceed USD100 million and insured losses in Alabama alone expected to be at least USD30 million. The number of tornado touchdowns during the month made 2012 the third-most active January since official records began in 1950.

Severe weather was also prevalent in parts of Indonesia, where separate events led to widespread damage and fatalities.

The first event swept through Jakarta, where total damages were recorded at IDR270 billion (USD30 million), and a event saw a tornado kill at least 14 people and destroy more than 2,000 homes in the provinces of Jakarta, Central Java, East Java and West Java.

Flooding and landslides caused damage and fatalities in multiple continents, with the countries of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Brazil, Mozambique and South Africa all sustaining effects.

Tropical Cyclone Funso brought torrential rains and gusty winds to Mozambique, though never officially making landfall. At least 30 people were killed and tens of thousands of homes were affected.

Source: Aon Benfield

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