The toll of natural disasters in 2017

Natural disasters of 2017 will go down in the annals of insurance history. Indeed, high-intensity events such as hurricanes of the North Atlantic, earthquakes of Mexico or the deadly floods that washed South Asia have drastically strained insured, insurers and reinsurers.

Natural disasters: 2017, a year with extreme events

natcat 2017The town of Marigot in Saint Martin , two days after hurricane IRMA © Muteevo2, CC BY-SA 4.0

According to a survey published by Munich Re, 710 climate and geological events have been reported in 2017 compared to 780 listed a year before. With a lower number than in 2016 but at a much higher cost, these events have claimed the lives of 10 000 people.

The tragic series started in the second half of 2017 in the Gulf of Mexico with no less than five major hurricanes that had lashed the Caribbean and South East Coast of the United States. During the same period, Mexico had been shaken by two powerful earthquakes.

Asia has also had its share of catastrophes with a particularly intense monsoon season in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, claiming the lives of more than 1200 people and destroying dwellings, crops and livestock. Huge floods and mudslides have also affected central and south China while Iran sustained a 7.3 magnitude earthquake on November 12, 2017 causing the death of 630 people.

Extreme weather phenomena have also hit Europe with unseasonably low temperatures, in April, setting back European farmers billions of dollars in damage. Moreover, an extended drought hit Spain and Portugal, both countries having also sustained deadly fires last October.

Natural disasters in 2017: list of main catastrophes

DateCountryNatural disasterNumber of victimsEconomic losses in millions USDInsured losses in millions USD
25/07 -01/09
United StatesHurricane Harvey8885 00030 000
United States , CaribbeanHurricane Irma12867 00032 000
CaribbeanHurricane Maria10863 00030 000
United StatesFire2510 500800
ChinaFloods and landslides566 000-
MexicoEarthquake3696 0002 000
EuropeHailstorm-3 6000,650

Natural disasters in 2017 : record high economic losses

In 2017, large-scale natural disasters have inflated the amount of economic losses. Munich Re’s survey has reported 330 billion USD in damage, a figure twice as high as the average rate of the last ten years set at 170 billion USD. This is the heaviest toll, following the one reported in 2011 (354 billion USD). During the afore-mentioned year, the 11 of March Japanese earthquake alone, accounted for 210 billion USD in losses. The previous record dates back to 2005 when hurricane Katrina hit USA causing 125 billion USD in damage.

The 2017 losses were accounted for by three major events: Harvey, Irma and Maria. These devastating hurricanes, having occurred in September in the North Atlantic region, accounted for 65% of the entire damage, that is, 215 billion USD.

In addition to cyclonic events, the United States were up against disastrous floods, an intense drought and devastating forest fires. With those events alone, the United States accounts for more than half the overall losses reported in 2017, that is, 165.6 billion USD.

Natural disasters in 2017 : number of events, victims and amount of economic and insurred losses

 20172016Last 10-year average (2007-2016)Last 30-year average (1987-2016)
Number of events
Number of victims
10 0009 65060 00053 000
Total economic losses in millions USD
330 000184 000170 000130 000
Total insured losses in millions USD
135 00050 70049 00035 000
% of insured losses

Natural disasters in 2017 : toll of insured losses

For the entire year 2017, insured losses amounted to 135 billion USD, up by 166% in comparison with 2016, an amount that exceeds by far the average rate reported in the last ten years set at 49 billion USD and that of the last 30 years set at 35 billion USD.

The percentage of insured losses has also jumped by 41% versus 27% one year earlier. The average insured losses over the last ten years amounted to 28.8%.

Skyrocketing insured losses are accounted for by the occurrence of several devastating events in the United States where some areas reported high insurance penetration rates such as Florida, California and Texas.

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