AON Benfield: This autumn's California wildfires could become the costliest insured wildfire in history

Historic wildfires left record bill for insurers in the United States and Portugal, three strong windstorms strongly impacted Europe, and continuous rainfall and typhoons caused extensive flooding in Asia-Pacific region, shows Aon Benfield's Global Catastrophe Recap report for October.

California: The costliest insured wildfire in history

A major wildfire outbreak erupted in portions of California starting during the month of October, killing at least 43 people and injuring 185 others. Nearly two-dozen fires were ignited as the blazes - notably the Central LNU Complex Fire around the town of Santa Rosa - would aggregate together as the most damaging event on record in the state. Data from CalFire indicated that nearly 9,300 structures were damaged, of which more than 8,560 were destroyed. The worst damage was noted in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, Solano, Butte, and Yuba counties.

The California Department of Insurance cited that at least 19,000 residential, commercial and auto claims had already been filed with payouts exceeding USD3.32 billion. This total was expected to rise to as high as USD8.0 billion as additional claims are processed. On aggregated basis, this is costliest insured wildfire event ever recorded.

Another significant wildfire outbreak engulfed Central and Northern Portugal, killing at least 45 people. The fires swept through several districts, notably Coimbra, Viseu and Castelo Branco, causing significant property and commercial damage. The Portuguese Association of Insurers indicated that total insured losses were likely to reach EUR200 million (USD232 million), which would be the costliest event on record for the local industry. Additional fires caused at least four fatalities in Northwestern Spain.

Europe affected by three storms; Asia-Pacific region faced extensive flooding

An active beginning of this year's European Windstorm season was marked by three notable storms. Windstorm Xavier impacted Northern Germany and Western Poland, prompting moderate damage and causing at least seven fatalities. The extratropical remnants of Ophelia, the easternmost Atlantic major hurricane (Category 3+) on record, hit the British Isles in mid-October. Finally, Windstorm Herwart swept through Central Europe, causing at least 10 deaths and hundreds of millions (USD) in claims payouts.

Super Typhoon Lan caused extensive damage in Philippines and in Japan with powerful winds and torrential rainfall. Total economic losses in Japan were likely to exceed USD1.0 billion. Shortly before Lan, Typhoon Khanun made landfall in southern China.

Hurricane Nate impacted Central America in early October, causing at least 46 deaths and extensive material losses. The storm later caused minor damage in U.S. Gulf and Mid-Atlantic states. Continuous rainfall prompted widespread flooding in China, Thailand and Vietnam, where at least 98 fatalities were reported. At least 121,000 of homes were affected by flooding in Thailand alone.

Flooding in southern Norway became one of the costliest events for the local industry in recent years. Additional flooding ensued in Queensland, Australia after powerful thunderstorms impacted the region in mid-October.

Multiple severe weather outbreaks affected the United States, primarily in central and eastern sections of the country. Total economic damage topped USD350 million. Also, the remnants of Tropical Storm Philippe combined with a separate system to bring widespread damage in the U.S. and Canada.

Elsewhere, powerful thunderstorms prompted wind and flood damage in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces in South Africa, causing notable losses to insurers.

Click here to access the complete report.

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