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Harvey Likely Costliest US Natural Disaster on Record, According to Aon

NASA image of Tropical Storm Harvey
September 12, 2017

Aon Benfield's catastrophe model development team has launched the latest edition of its monthly Global Catastrophe Recap report, which evaluates the impact of the natural disaster events that occurred worldwide during August 2017. 

The report reveals that Hurricane Harvey came ashore in Texas on August 25 to become the first major hurricane (a storm rated as Category 3, 4, or 5) to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Heavy rain continued until August 31, bringing record-breaking rainfall to some areas. Catastrophic flooding ensued across a swath of eastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana, as more than 60 people were confirmed dead and dozens more were injured. Additional impacts due to severe thunderstorms and flash floods were noted across the Gulf states and Mississippi Valley.

Total economic losses were estimated to minimally reach the tens of billions of dollars, ensuring that Harvey is likely to become one of the costliest natural disasters on record in the United States. Preliminary published reports suggest that insured losses—including those paid by private industry and the National Flood Insurance Program—were likely to well exceed $10 billion.

Elsewhere, Typhoon Hato and Tropical Storm Pakhar both made landfall in China's Guangdong province within 1 week of each other, causing considerable damage and loss of life in multiple provinces as well as Macau and Hong Kong. Economic losses from Hato alone were minimally estimated at $3 billion, while combined insured losses from both storms in Guangdong were estimated at $535 million.

Additionally, Typhoon Noru and Hurricane Franklin impacted southern Japan and Mexico, respectively, during August.

Steve Bowen, impact forecasting director and meteorologist, said, "Hurricane Harvey's landfall in the United States officially put an end to the 11-year major hurricane drought. The impacts from the cyclone were far-reaching, and the scope of flood damage in Houston—the nation's fourth largest city—was historic. Given the anticipated costs from direct damage and business interruption, it is expected that Harvey will eventually be recorded as one of the costliest natural disasters on record in the US. Harvey served as a challenging reminder of how catastrophic hurricane events can be, and with September being the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, the risk of further storms remains high."

Further natural hazard events worldwide in August included the following.

  • More than 1,300 people were killed across South Asia due to extensive monsoonal flooding and landslides. Throughout India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, tens of millions of people were affected as approximately one million homes were damaged or destroyed. Extensive damage to agriculture and infrastructure was also endured in northeastern India, southern and eastern Nepal, and northern Bangladesh.

  • Multiple rounds of flooding impacted several Chinese provinces, claiming at least 100 lives and generating aggregated economic losses in excess of $1.2 billion.

  • Floods in northern Vietnam claimed 40 lives and caused losses of $88 million.

  • Torrential rainfall over portions of Africa during August led to at least two significant landslides that claimed an estimated 1,250 lives. The largest of these occurred in Sierra Leone on August 14, where the death toll in Freetown was estimated at approximately 1,050. Additional flood events were reported in Russia's Far East, Yemen, Iran, the United States (Florida), and Europe (the Alps) during August.

  • Several rounds of severe weather, including at least two derechos, impacted multiple Central European countries through the middle part of August. Widespread property, agricultural, and forestry damage was reported in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Both economic and insured losses were expected to reach well into the hundreds of millions of euro.

  • Multiple severe weather outbreaks were additionally noted in the United States and China.

  • On August 8, a magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck China's Sichuan province, damaging 72,500 homes.

For the results from other recent Aon reports, read the articles "Aon Catastrophe Report Reveals Severe Weather Hit US Economy" and "US Suffers Widespread Economic/Insurance Impact from Severe Weather in June, According to Aon."

Also on from Swiss Re, "First Half of 2017: Biggest Catastrophe Losses Come from US Thunderstorms."

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