US wildfire costs to exceed USD 10 billion for second year running

12 December 2018 — Andrei Victor
According to the most recent Global Catastrophe Recap report launched by AON's Impact Forecasting team for November 2018 - the annual wildfire industry payouts is expected to exceed USD 10 billion for the second consecutive year in the United States.

The report reveals that a series of major wildfires burned across Northern and Southern California throughout the month; the most catastrophic, the Camp Fire in Butte County, largely destroyed the city of Paradise, killing 88 people with dozens of others unaccounted for.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, CalFire, cited that 19,357 homes and other structures were damaged or destroyed, making the Camp Fire the deadliest and most destructive on record in California. Additionally, three people were killed in the Woolsey Fire as the fire damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 structures in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

Total aggregated economic losses for the fires were expected to minimally exceed USD 10 billion, while insurance claims payouts for wildfires are set to exceed USD 10 billion in the United States for the second year running.

"With annual wildfire industry payouts expected to exceed USD 10 billion for the second consecutive year in the United States, the standard assumption of wildfire being a secondary peril may evolve in the future. While insurers remain firmly in position to handle the volume of claims in the aftermath of recent events, these heightened losses put a further spotlight on the growing risk of the peril around the world. The growth of exposure into known fire locations and the prospect of more weather and climate-driven effects will require continued focus on mitigation initiatives", said Steve BOWEN, Impact Forecasting Director and Meteorologist.

Meanwhile, Cyclone Gaja made landfall in southern India, causing widespread impacts across the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The cyclone killed 46 people as damage was incurred to more than 117,500 homes. The overall economic impact was listed in excess of INR 54 billion (USD 775 million).

Two other notable tropical cyclones made landfalls in November, both in Vietnam. Tropical Depression Toraji killed 19 people as damage reached at least VND396 billion (USD17.2 million). A weakened Typhoon Usagi brought record rainfall to the greater Ho Chi Minh metro area. Minimum economic damage was listed at VND347 billion (USD15 million).

Further natural hazard events to have occurred worldwide during November include:

  • A major magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck just north of Anchorage, Alaska on November 30, causing widespread damage to residential and commercial property in addition to local transportation and utility infrastructure. Total economic losses were expected to exceed USD 100 million.
  • Parts of Italy and Spain dealt with complex storm systems and flooding during the end of October into November. In Italy alone, dozens of fatalities were recorded as the inclement weather killed dozens of people. Economic damage was expected to be more than EUR 3.0 billion (USD 3.4 billion). In Spain, one person was killed as flooding caused severe damage to infrastructure and agriculture. Crop damage in the Valencian region alone will range from EUR 70-120 million (USD 80-140 million).
  • Strong thunderstorms impacted central areas of Chile with large hail and intense rainfall, causing notable agricultural damage. Agricultural industry authorities estimated that economic losses were likely to approach USD 200 million. Among the worst affected areas were the O'Higgins and Maule regions.
  • Severe weather events also occurred in the United States and Australia.
  • Heavy rainfall swept across parts of the Middle East, prompting flash flooding and dozens of casualties. Damage in Kuwait alone was listed at KWD 100 million (USD 330 million).
  • Winter storm events caused notable damage and disruption in the United States and China.

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