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Roundup of February’s natural disasters around the world

Impact Forecasting has published its Global Catastrophe Recap, which evaluates the impact of the natural disaster events that took place worldwide in February 2016.

The report highlights that the Southern Hemisphere registered its strongest tropical cyclones on record during February. Tropical Cyclone Winston had maximum sustained winds of 295 km/h (185 mph) and 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. Total economic losses were estimated at FJD 1.0 billion (USD 470 million). This equals roughly 10 percent of Fiji’s GDP. Insurers noted claims were expected to reach FJD 100 million (USD 47 million).

Meanwhile in the Northern Hemisphere, severe convective storms in the US led to the greatest number of February tornadoes in the country since 2008. Damage resulting from tornadoes, straight-line winds and large hail was noted in the Plains, Midwest, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Virginia endured the strongest February twister on record for the state. Combined economic losses in the U. – which also includes damage resulting from heavy snow and ice – are expected to top USD 1.0 billion. The insurance industry is poised to see losses reach well into the hundreds of millions (USD).

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 EUR 160 million (USD 175 million).

Steve Bowen, Associate Director and Meteorologist at Impact Forecasting, said: “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. 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. 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 TWD 25 billion (USD 750 million) for recovery and reconstruction. The Financial Supervisory Commission cited preliminary insured losses at only TWD 250 million (USD 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 US 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 USD 9 billion in economic losses this month.

To view the February Global Catastrophe Recap, click here.

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