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Roundup of May’s major environmental disasters

Impact Forecasting, the catastrophe model development team of Aon plc, has published the latest edition of its monthly Global Catastrophe Recap report, which evaluates the impact of the natural disaster events that occurred around the world during May 2018.

The report highlights that four separate severe weather outbreaks swept across the United States during the month, leading to extensive hail and wind damage. Most of the damage occurred from the Rockies to the Mid-Atlantic, and thunderstorms led to catastrophic flash flooding in Ellicott City, Maryland for the second time in less than two years. Total combined economic losses from just two of the events were minimally estimated at USD2.3 billion, with public and private insurers expected to cover more than two-thirds of the total. The final figure is expected to be even higher.

The severe weather occurred amid of one of the quietest starts to tornado season in the US – fewer than 450 tornadoes were reported as of June 1, putting 2018 in the lowest 25 percent of years since 1950.

Additional North American thunderstorm damage occurred in areas of Canada's Ontario and Quebec, with one event costing insurers nearly USD325 million, according to catastrophe analyst CatIQ. Most of the hail and wind damage occurred in Ontario, making it the costliest thunderstorm in the province since 2013.

Meanwhile, flooding along the Yangtze River Basin and elsewhere in China led to over 75,000 homes sustaining varying levels of damage, and total combined economic losses in excess of USD400 million.

The combined death toll from extensive flooding in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Rwanda since February had risen to nearly 400 by the end of May, having affected more than one million people and decimated infrastructure.

Steve Bowen, Impact Forecasting director and meteorologist, said: "The month of May featured significant weather events in nearly every major region around the globe. While the multi-billion dollar economic cost of severe convective storms in the United States and Canada was not out of the ordinary given the peak of severe weather season, perhaps most noteworthy was the rarity of two tropical cyclones directly affecting the Arabian Peninsula and Somalia in a matter of days. Storm impacts in northeast Africa only added to recent humanitarian challenges in a region which had already seen abnormally severe seasonal flooding. The flood peril will be a very important point of focus as insurance continues to grow across the emerging markets in Africa."

Further natural disaster events to have occurred elsewhere during May include:

  • Convective storm damage was noted in Asia and Europe. In India alone, nearly 300 people died in thunderstorm-related incidents. An active storm pattern in Central and Western Europe at the end of May will likely result in insurance payouts reaching the hundreds of millions (USD).
  • In Australia, an insurance catastrophe was declared by the Insurance Council of Australia following floods in New South Wales. Preliminary insurance payouts neared USD21 million.
  • Two very rare tropical cyclones made landfall in Somalia and Oman in a matter of days of each other. Tropical Cyclone Sagar became the strongest storm to strike Somalia on record, reaching speeds of 60 mph (95 kmph), and also left heavy damage during its path through the Gulf of Aden. Tropical Cyclone Mekunu made landfall in Oman as a 115 mph (185 kmph) Category 3 storm. Widespread wind and flood damage was reported.
  • Subtropical Storm Alberto developed in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall as a 45 mph (75 kmph) system near Panama City, Florida. Heavy rains and isolated tornadoes impacted an area from Florida to Michigan along its path. At least seven people died in Cuba due to extensive flooding.
  • Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupted beginning May 3 and continued to spewing ash into the atmosphere and sending lava flows into residential areas. Hundreds of homes and other structures were destroyed.

To view the full report, click here (PDF). 



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