El Niño Wreaks Havoc in February with Fiji Cyclone, Floods & Drought: Aon Report

March 8, 2016

The Southern Hemisphere registered its strongest tropical cyclone on record during February with Tropical Cyclone Winston, according to Impact Forecasting, Aon Benfield’s catastrophe model development team.

With maximum sustained winds of 295 kph (185 mph), Tropical Cyclone Winston made landfall on Fiji’s largest and most populated island (Viti Levu), killing at least 44 people and damaging or destroying more than 24,000 homes. omes.

Total economic losses from the storm were estimated at FJD1.0 billion ($470 million), which equals roughly 10 percent of Fiji’s GDP, while insurance claims were expected to reach FJD100 million ($47 million), said the Impact Forecasting report titled, “Global Catastrophe Recap: February 2016.”

Meanwhile in the Northern Hemisphere, severe convective storms in the U.S. led to the greatest number of February tornadoes in the country since 2008, said Impact Forecasting, which evaluates and reports on the effects of natural disasters on a monthly basis.

Damage from tornadoes, straight-line winds and large hail was reported in the Plains, Midwest, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, while Virginia endured the strongest February twister on record for the state, the company said.

Combined economic losses in the U.S. – which also includes damage resulting from heavy snow and ice – are expected to top $1.0 billion. The insurance industry was poised to see losses reach well into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Windstorms Norkys and Ruzica – also known locally as Henry and Imogen – brought high winds and coastal flooding to portions of Ireland and the United Kingdom. Total combined economic losses from both storms were estimated at €160 million ($175 million).

“Despite starting to show signs of weakening in the Central and Eastern Pacific Ocean, the record-tying El Niño left its fingerprint on many global natural disaster events in February,” said Steve Bowen, associate director and meteorologist at Impact Forecasting.

“From Tropical Cyclone Winston’s record intensity landfall in Fiji to flooding rains in California to the worst drought in decades across parts of Southeast Asia and Africa, it is clear that the El Niño phenomenon will continue to impact atmospheric and oceanic patterns in the months ahead,” he added.

“These events pose a risk of further straining government disaster recovery budgets. This will only reinforce the importance of insurance and risk analysis; particularly in countries with lower insurance penetration levels.”

In addition, notable earthquake and drought events occurred globally, including:

  • A magnitude-6.4 earthquake in Taiwan, killing at least 117 people and injuring 550 others. The Taiwan government allocated TWD25 billion ($750 million) for recovery and reconstruction. The Financial Supervisory Commission cited preliminary insured losses at only TWD250 million ($8.0 million).
  • A magnitude-5.8 earthquake struck just offshore New Zealand’s Christchurch metro region and left several people injured. The New Zealand Earthquake Commission noted 5,048 filed insurance claims.
  • A magnitude-5.1 tremor in the U.S. state of Oklahoma caused minor damage. The USGS cited the event was likely the third-strongest earthquake ever recorded in Oklahoma.
  • Worsening droughts in Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Thailand and Haiti resulted in near to $9 billion in economic losses this month.


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